There’s a running joke in my family that I never live in the state where I am licensed to drive (the joke’s not that funny). I do my best to abide by the law and update my driver’s license promptly, but... life happens. As soon as the new license is in my wallet, I seem to be changing zip codes again. 

For that reason, I’ve seen my fair share of BMVs. Anyone who’s been in a BMV knows they’re usually in for a terrible experience. But my latest encounter surprisingly stood out. Welcome to the pleasantly efficient Carmel, Indiana BMV.

The best user experience (UX) is the one everybody understands yet no one notices. That’s right, great UX is invisible. Now for the longest time, agencies like the BMV have made citizens (aka their users) wait in long lines, suffer inefficient systems and be made to feel, well, invisible. So when my expectation was met with a radical reversal, it got me thinking. 

As I walk through my shockingly productive BMV trip, allow me to draw parallels to UX…

  1. As I entered, a greeter asked if I was there for a simple task that could be done on a self-service kiosk. The interaction was friendly, natural and familiar, and it happened the moment I walked in the door. I didn’t have to orient to a new system or feel pressured to “just know” what I had to do. It felt like my time was respected because there was a clear way to knock out the easy stuff.

    Value the individual. How can a digital experience feel welcoming and natural to everyone who encounters it? Can fast lanes be created for users who may already know what they need to do?

  2. The greeter asked me to take a numbered ticket and have a seat in the main area of the BMV.

    Give guidance. Can the right nudge be provided at the right time? Are clear expectations being set? Is there a way to address initial questions?

  3. A line of clerks all helped customers and a manager stood behind them. When someone needed manager assistance or approval, they would raise their hand and the manager would help them. I could see that things were getting done, workers were working, managers were managing. The process was productive, so I didn’t mind waiting.

    Show progress. In what ways can you build in subtle indications that your user is making progress? Are they getting the services they’re searching for? Sometimes, showing what’s happening under the hood actually informs the user of the efficiency of the process itself.
  4. A large digital sign on the wall indicated the current number being served. Once a clerk was ready for a new customer, the number would update and the clerk would stand up.

    Respond to feedback. How do you show the user they are being cared for? Is communication crystal clear? How do you ensure one user’s experience is equally important to another user’s? Does the feedback loop work in real time?

  5. When it was my turn, the clerk asked the reason for my visit and gave me a checklist of all the materials I needed to provide. My request was processed, the camera clicked, I paid the bill, and I was done. I walked out with my coffee still hot.

    Make it easy. When data needs to be collected, is it clear what needs to be provided? Does accomplishing a task feel rewarding? Can I drink coffee while performing the task?

A little different than those sloths in Zootopia, right? It goes to show that inspiration can come from just about anywhere. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to report that I am officially a resident of Indiana. Although I heard North Carolina is nice this time of year… 

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