Becoming An Independent Driver

The Journey and Identifying Opportunities.


As age 30 began arriving at break neck speed, I thought it was time to finally learn how to drive. My mission was simple- learn how to drive. While the physical act of doing so was difficult enough, I didn't anticipate all the other hurdles I had to cross. At the end of it, my experience has become perfect fodder for a UX case study.

A Checklist for Becoming a Driver Successfully

  Study for and take written test
  Obtain learners permit
  Get behind-the-wheel driving lessons
  Practice at odd hours of the day
  Try not to let the stress make you cry like a baby
  Get permanent license
  Enjoy new found freedom!

The Unexpected Hurdles

I genuinely thought that my biggest struggle was going to be learning how to operate a car. While it did retain the number one spot, several other random things made themselves very frustrating to accomplish. Here are some key pain points at different stages of my journey to becoming a driver:

1. Taking the written test

Because the DPS is notorious for lines and for being generally stressful, I decided to take an online course. The course also provided the final written test and certificate/paperwork for obtaining a learners permit. This part of my journey was fairly painless, except a minor annoyance related to the online course. I spent a significant amount of time away from the course app in between any two study sessions. Because of this, I rarely remembered my login details.

Pain points
  • Forgetting login details because of being logged out after a period of time.
  • Not being able to log in to device of choice, while remaining logged in to primary use device.
2. Getting a learners permit

The general anguish that stems from interacting with DPS in any form - physically or digitally - found a solid basis at this point.

Pain points
  • Finding a list of required documents was a herculean task, specifically for an over 25 permanent resident
  • There was 3-4 different versions of list of acceptable documents
  • Very little information on the process of obtaining a learners permit for those over 25.
  • Extremely counterintuitive website.
  • No help available.
3. Behind the wheel lessons

Getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time, till date, remains the most stressful thing I've ever done. While the pain points associated with physically driving are understandable and resolve with practice, the process of getting behind the wheel had some unexpected challenges.

Pain points
  • There are several behind the wheel schools in Austin- none of which offer information efficiently. Pricing, course descriptions, and general information was almost always burried 4 or 5 pages deep.
  • After picking a school, I was made to sign up for an account. The only thing I could do here is view any scheduled classes. Scheduling had to be done over the phone, which requires an online request to be submitted.
4. Getting the drivers license.

After jumping through a lot of unexpected hoops and thorough behind-the-wheel lessons, I was ready for the road test. But, a final few road blocks were in the way:

Pain points
  • Trying to schedule a driving test with the DPS turned out to be a futile effort because of the months long wait.
  • The possibility of giving the road test through an authorized third party school was my best shot- except DPS made it very difficult to find these schools. The DPS website had several lists of different schools. I had to call 15 or so schools to find out whether their authorization was still valid or not.
  • Very little information on the required paperwork for obtaining a driver license is available online. I found out about required forms at the DPS, from the person processing my paperwork.

There is a clear culprit...

This 6 week journey has been interesting, to say the least. So much stress, so many happy moments, and SO. MUCH. FREEDOM!

But, there is one tool/part/aspect - call it what you may - of this journey that was a common and obvious pain point most times- the DPS website. It is evident that the website is poorly organized, with overlapping, and often contradicting information. If the website was clearer and better organized, user frustration and chances of failure could be reduced greatly.