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Free Movement major redesign coming soon: sneak preview

There is a major redesign coming soon to Free Movement. You can take a sneak peak at the new design here. It is not finished yet but we are getting close. There are also changes coming to pricing, membership structure and the way the website works to try and improve access to relevant content.

The redesign has been brewing for a long time and is based on three objectives:

  1. Making life easier for members based on the reader survey earlier this year
  2. Meeting the needs of non members seeking help with immigration problems
  3. Putting the website onto a fully sustainable footing

First of all, some numbers. Free Movement readership now runs at over 300,000 page views a month, which translates as around 3.5 million page views a year. The number of unique visitors per month runs at around 125,000. There are now over 12,000 people on the mailing list.

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The traditional readership of this website has been immigration lawyers, but there simply aren’t that many immigration lawyers out there. The vast majority of readers are now migrants and their families, friends, employers and supporters.

The two audiences are both looking for much the same thing: reliable and comprehensible information about immigration law in plain English. There are differences as well, though. The blog format (reverse chronological updates) works well for some lawyers and will definitely be maintained. I will also be working harder to produce more comprehensive topic based content which I then also keep up to date. This type of content is harder to produce but is useful to less experienced lawyers and to members of the public as well.

That readership has grown so much is very encouraging, although it is also profoundly depressing that so many people need help with immigration issues right now. But high readership comes with actual costs. Hosting the blog now costs over £150 per month and the mailing list costs over £100 per month. Software licences add another £200 per month. And then there is the time that I put into writing content for and administering the website and the help I buy in for that as well.

New pricing and membership structure

The cost of membership for existing members is being frozen; there will be no price increase for existing Tier 1 users who maintain their current subscription. Prices for existing members may increase in future, but not now.

For new or lapsed members, the cost of individual membership will be remaining the same at £199 plus VAT. The cost of new group memberships is changing. The new cost for groups of 10 will be £600 plus VAT and new larger groups are being introduced at a lower cost per member. New group memberships will be as follows:

  • Group of up to 10: £600 plus VAT (£60 per member)
  • Group of up to 20: £1,000 plus VAT (£50 per member)
  • Group of up to 50: £2,000 plus VAT (£40 per member)

A monthly full membership plan for individuals is being introduced at £20 plus VAT per month. The changes to Continuing Professional Development make this possible for the first time, I hope, as lawyers now need to show their regulators they are continually working to keep themselves up to date. Some members of the public may also find the membership and courses useful and this will make membership more accessible.

For a very limited time we will be allowing new small groups of up to 10 to sign up for membership at the old rate of £500 plus VAT. Use code NEWSITEGROUP during payment and that will apply a £100 discount to the new rate.

The distinction between Tier 1 and Tier 2 membership is being scrapped: all members will have access to the same content in future. Once the new site is fully operational, existing Tier 2 members can continue with their plans until the end of their billing period and will be offered a discount on the monthly membership plan.

Fresh new look

You can take a look at the beta version of the new site here.It is not finished yet but we are getting close. Our plan is to enable users to switch to the new design once it is ready and then switch everyone across once it has been thoroughly tested.

The reader survey was a success, with 627 responses in total. I am really grateful to everyone who took the time, thank you. The redesign has been carried out very much with those responses in mind. You can see some of results of the email and website surveys for yourself, although the free text entries which were most valuable are not included in those reports, I’m sorry.

More content is fitted onto relevant pages by overlaying titles and text onto images, the font and design has been modernised and navigation around the site improved. The search engine on the website has also been improved.

The biggest change to the public part of the site is the introduction of “hub” pages on different areas of immigration law. These are based on categories of blog posts, something that has always existed in the background on Free Movement but which the designers have tried to bring to the fore. As well as relevant blog posts, these pages will include useful resources, feeds of information from Free Movement and from elsewhere, subcategories of blog posts and links. They are work in progress but do please take a look. I am hoping that these will be genuinely useful resources.

Benefits for members

There is a new member’s home page which is designed to display the newest information on Free Movement for regular returning members. Access to and display of available training courses and forum content has been much improved. A proper support ticket system is being introduced.

The forums are used mainly for questions and answers and to meet that need better a new format of private lawyer Q&A forum is being introduced where other readers can easily signal approval or disapproval for an answer. I hope that will further improve engagement as a full written response will not be needed, just a signal that someone else has done a good (or bad!) job of answering. These are not quite ready yet in the new design.

There will be two forums in future. One will be for lawyers only and will be private, just like the existing forums. The other, which will really be a test, will be available to lawyers and members of the public.

One of the major changes is that group or umbrella membership has now been properly implemented so that one user can buy a pre-set number of user accounts and then control them. This will stop group users needing to go through me to make changes and give you much greater control. We will be adding a video walk through and full explanation of how to manage the process.

In future it will only be possible to purchase set numbers of users: 10, 20 and 50. Larger groups can be arranged if needed, though.

Legal services

There is huge thirst for good online information and for reasonably priced help on immigration issues. The website statistics show this. To address some of that need I have already tested paid legal services on the website: “how-to” guides in ebook form, a video link advice service and an application checking service.

The idea is that “do it yourself” guides will be available cheaply which will be enough for some people genuinely to do it themselves, but questions can be asked via the video link if needed, also comparatively cheaply, and then an application can be checked for peace of mind.

These services are improved and made more prominent in the new design. The intention is is to provide cost effective online immigration advice without being limited by geography. Solicitors and regulators call such services “unbundled” because they are not traditional full service legal representation. To a barrister like me, though, such services are just what barristers do: provide on demand bits of legal help and advice.

Feedback

The developers and I am very keen to get feedback on the new design and how it works (or doesn’t!). To let us know, just use the feedback tab on the test version of the site or the form on the home page.

We hope you like it!

Colin Yeo
Colin Yeo A barrister specialising in UK immigration law at Garden Court Chambers in London, I have been practising in immigration law for 15 years. I am passionate about immigration law and founded and edit the Free Movement immigration law blog.

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