California DMV websitE

Enhanced the user experience of the California DMV website to better support intellectual freedom for my Human-Computer Interaction graduate class project.

PROJECT BRIEF

Critique a commonly used interface, platform, tool, or system in terms of how well it supports intellectual freedom. Then, propose new design elements or affordances for the selected technology that would more effectively support intellectual freedom and information access for a variety of potential users.

ROLE

Researcher & UI Designer
Responsible for designing the DMV homepage and accessibility features.

TEAM

Nataly Palma, Kai-Ting Chan, Raymond Huang

TIMELINE

Winter Quarter 2018, 10 Weeks

DEFINING INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM

"Intellectual Freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all point of view without restrictions."

This diagram illustrates information flowing from the source to the people through two different pipelines.

  • The pipe on the right shows that information flow is restricted, filtered, and manipulated by different external organizations and influences such as censorship, discrimination, and corporations. External agencies have their own agenda and present what they want the public to know.
  • Using the metaphor of Intellectual Freedom as “free flow” of information, the pipe on the left demonstrates pieces of information moving straight from the source to the people. The walls of the pipe protecting the constant flow are the ideals of privacy, accessibility, neutrality, equity, cooperation, and diversity.

WHY THE CALIFORNIA DMV

A government website, such as DMV, is a channel through which the people obtain information on laws, policies, regulations, and services to help themselves to become more engaged and responsible citizens. When a government website fails to provide timely and relevant access or content to its constituents, it restricts their intellectual freedom.

California is a diverse state with more than a quarter of residents being immigrants (foreign-born); they should not be marginalized based on language, age, and culture, or a combination of these intersectional factors. In this proposal, we address deficiency of DMV website and provide examples of new design elements that DMV can adopt to better meet its mission to serve the public.

WHO IS IN NEED

Intellectual Freedom is particular essential to people who are at risk, those who have a need for information but are prevented from having it. In the context of DMV website, we identified the following users that meet the criteria and created three personas to represent these target users.

TARGET FOCUS: IMMIGRANTS
Who have language barriers
Who have moved to the US for the first time
Who may or may not be documented citizens
Who are students/working/seniors

Concerns & Frustrations
Unable to find information because it’s disorganized
Unable to read or understand due to language barrier, culture difference, or physical limitations.
Uncertain about their options due to concern for their legal presence in the U.S.

DESIGN PRINCIPLES & CRITERIA

Accessibility

Website should be designed to work for all people regardless of their physical limitations (e.g. resizable fonts for the vision impaired).

Accuracy

Information (whether translated or not) should be timely and complete (e.g. consistent content throughout the website. Related information should be linked).

Removal of barriers to information

Information should be clear, concise, easy to find, and correctly labeled. Content should be translated into different languages to meet the needs of users. Information should be equally prioritized on pages instead of hidden.

CRITIQUES

My team evaluated and redesigned multiple pages of the website for this project. For the purpose of this website, I will be only showcasing the homepage and accessibility bar, as it was my main contribution.

  1. Organization - Information and services are displayed through hyperlink lists which can look overwhelming and outdated. Header navigation links and body navigation section have repetitive information and similarly titled links are inconsistent and direct to different pages.
  2. Image Carousel - Displaying images within a carousel places a hierarchy on the visibility and importance of the images. This tells us information on the 4-6 slides is not as prioritized as the information on the 1-3 slide. The carousel design is problematic because users may miss later slides if they don't wait for the entire carousel to play through. For example, the 5th slide contains information on AB-60, a law allowing undocumented individuals to obtain a driver’s license. These individuals may not realize they have this opportunity because the information is hidden.
  3. Translation - The translation tool is located in the bottom right corner of the homepage and is not present on any other page of the website. The translation relies on a 3rd party widget, Google Translate, which may not always be accurate in translating technical information.
  4. Accessibility - Compared to the parent website, ca.gov, this website lacks accessibility features such as the ability to change font size within the page and high contrast mode. Printing or emailing information is also not convenient.
  5. Login/Shopping Cart - These features are only used for completing online services, which is not the main function of the website. The placement of the buttons resembles an e-commerce site rather than an informational one.

PROPOSED DESIGN ELEMENTS

Layout & Organization

The layout and look resembles a more fresh, modern website like the New York or Florida state DMV websites. The colors and typography used display authority and professionalism.

New Content Elements
Informational images are now static and are easily viewable when scrolling through the homepage. General Information contains quick access links to information or services that are most used or aren't accessible through the main navigation menu. Alerts & Announcements section contains most recent news and changes to regulations and laws so users are up to date within a glance.

Navigation
The main navigation is consolidated into a header navigation menu that features drop down menus and clearly labeled categories and buttons to direct users to information most relevant to their needs.

Mobile
The new layout and accessibility features are also configured for mobile web browsing.

Accessibility

All pages of the website now have an accessibility bar which allows users to adjust the website display to their needs and improve readability. This bar is placed under the title banner for easy identification and access.

Language Translation
Rather than relying on 3rd party translation tools, the DMV should provide their own precise translations (like they do for Spanish). We suggest including the most spoken languages in California to cover a majority of the non-native English speaking population. We selected the languages by examining the languages provided on California voter registration page and other demographic sources. The languages not as prevalent in California will still be covered by Google Translate.

While translating the whole website into different languages will be a large task, the information on the DMV site is mostly constant and will not need much altering once its been initially translated.

Font Size & High Contrast
Users will be able to alter the font size within the page rather than relying on the web browser. Users with visual impairments will also be able to convert the page to a high contrast display to read the text easier.

Print & Email
Users will be able to save/share information online or print it for offline use. This function formats the information to be printer friendly rather than rely on the browser which may cut off information.

Reflection

While there are many approaches to supporting intellectual freedom, our group focused on providing accessible and accurate information to citizens by examining the usability of a government website. A well informed public will allow us to operate consciously within our society. In this design process, we learned to first think about who could be at risk in terms of intellectual freedom before deciding which interface or tool to redesign. This was our team's first experience in designing web interfaces and using prototyping tools but I believe we were able to translate our ideas into a practical design mockup. At the end of the quarter, we delivered a design proposal and a presentation to the class and members of the Information Studies department at UCLA. While this project was focused on the California DMV website, the principles we applied and features we added to this site can be applied to other government information sites as well.