365 Days of Random

Random musings about nothing at all

The DMV

Does anyone have anything good and nice to say about the DMV? I didn’t think so…. at least I’ve never met anyone that has had a less than frustrating experience there. This morning for my BF and I was no exception.

A couple of weeks ago my BF’s license expired. It was on his birthday while I was in Vegas. He had my car so got up the morning of his birthday and went straight to the DMV to get it sorted out. He was there for a good chunk of time before they told him the could not renew his license because of some infraction from when he lived in Maryland (about 5 years ago) that needed to be addressed. Here’s the kicker… the license he has now he got LAST YEAR and they never said anything about this unresolved issue. So, he returned home, complete with a list of things to do so that he could get it taken care of and get his license renewed. He had to call some phone number, who proceeded to tell him to call another number, who also told him to call someone else, who then told him to call the second people again and so on and so on. FINALLY after a few days of the run around he got it all sorted out and sent over to the Virginia DMV so that he could get his VA license renewed.

This morning I offered to get up early with him, drive him over to the DMV right when it opened (so that we wouldn’t have to wait a super long time in line), wait with him while he got the license stuff taken care of and then drop him off at work on my way into the office. Tuesdays is my climbing night so normally I go to Squeak’s place in the morning and we drive in together. Yesterday she had left her car at the office so I was heading there to pick her up after we were done at the DMV. Problem… we were at the DMV for more than an hour and a half because there was some issue with his class M license. He’d gotten his motorcycle license last year and they wanted to make him retest (as in driving test on a bike) again this morning before they’d renew it….. When he said that was ridiculous and handed him other information about getting the license within the last 12 months they made him wait while they ‘looked into it’. It was crazy how long we waited. Squeaks ended up taking the metro to work so that we BOTH weren’t crazy late this morning.

I’ve lived in the DC/VA area for just shy of 5 years now. I’ve been to the DMV more than a few times in the time period. I’ve NEVER come out of there feeling like they were helpful or friendly or anything positive. I am almost always frustrated by it. Today it wasn’t even my stuff and they were pissing me off. It’s crazy. They are all grumpy and they have the most inefficient system I’ve ever seen. You’d think for the work they do they’d have figured out ways to simplify the process and make it go faster. My biggest frustration with them is that they don’t seem capable of telling you all the things that you need to do to take car of something if/when there is a problem completing whatever transaction you went there to complete. You get up to the counter, they tell you there is a problem and you need to go home and do/get X. Once you do that you can come back and we’ll help you out (sure they will). Then you get back there and they tell you “Thanks for doing X but now you need to go back and do Y because we still can’t complete your request” ARGHHHH!!! Why on earth didn’t they tell you that the FIRST time you were there so you could go take care of everything before you came back.

Honestly, the Virginia DMV is one of the most frustrating experiences you can have. They are in serious need of some “Service Design” expertise.

But, all in all I am glad that I went with my BF this morning. If for no other reason that to make him laugh enough so that he didn’t wring the neck of the insanely grumpy old man that was ‘helping’ him.

July 26, 2011 Posted by | Random, User Experience | , , , , | Leave a comment

Thinking Time

So today (about an hour ago) I truly discovered the value of having time to think when working through design problems. Of course I’ve always KNOWN this, I’ve just never run into the “You don’t have time to think” feeling before now. At least not to this extent.

I am working on this new project and things have been incredibly hectic so I am completely behind schedule in terms of getting my designs finalized and out to the team for this first sprint of work. I’ve always been able to get stuff written up quickly and I am quite good about working stuff out in the background. I am the type of person that is constantly thinking about what I am working on. By the time I sit down to document my designs in a detailed enough format for my development team I have all the details figured out. Half the time I didn’t even realize I’d figured them out.

But today, I’ve been struggling with this last use case for the current sprint of development (which of course started today and I can’t afford to be late with how tight the scope is for this team). I engaged a couple of my coworkers in a quick brainstorming session about this particular feature and they threw a couple of “but why” questions at me that have me now thinking in a COMPLETELY different direction. Not only am I questioning the value of doing a particular series of work (and rightly questioning it) but I am trying to figure out how I’d build something even better in it’s place.

The struggle I am having is that I need this design finalized Yesterday (or more truthfully last week) and now I need more time to really THINK about how this should work. I need the time to figure out what the real problem we are trying to solve is. I need to work out what the best product solution is that is not placing the burden onto the user – or at least in a way that is significantly less painful than they have now.

I normally LOVE these kinds of problems…. and this conversation would have come up no matter when I had the conversation with my colleagues. They are completely right that what we’re doing is simply swapping out one crappy thing for something that may be prettier but is equally as crappy (possibly worse it terms of the ‘barrier to entry’ it would cause). That’s never EVER a good thing when thinking about user experience. My struggle with this is that all of the logistical stuff around this project got in the way of me spending that proper amount of time and energy on this two weeks ago and now I have to scramble to figure it out in 24 hours.

Ideally I would like to wait on this just a bit longer and get some thoughts/ideas in front of my client group later this week. I am just not sure our project manager will go for that. So I am going to try and see what I can come up with tonight (and tomorrow morning) and then ask if waiting another few days for a final decision on this would significantly block my development team. If I can wait to deliver the final designs until Friday I can have a good discussion about it with my clients on Thursday and be sure that we’re truly building the RIGHT thing.

So that’s my design advice for today….. even when you know you typically work stuff out in the back of your mind and have all the details mostly worked out subconsciously you should never get too comfortable with that and you should ALWAYS make sure (no matter what else is going on) that you give yourself enough time to actually THINK about what you’re designing… I guess we all make that mistake on occasion. With this particular feature I definitely did. But, it will be remedied!!

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Design | , , , | Leave a comment