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Stupid Usability #89

Automatic Flusher? I Guess Not

Written By: High Monkey
Posted: 2/23/2015

From the mind of Joe Cronin, Project Manager at High Monkey:

 I recently had the pleasure of taking a week-long vacation at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic to celebrate my brother-in-law’s wedding. It was my first time at an all-inclusive resort and it was quite the eye opening experience. Food and drinks were brought to us on demand at no charge (I quickly forgot the amount of money it cost up front to be there for the week). There were organized games of beach volleyball & soccer, dance contests and concerts.

The resort grounds were immaculate, all of the grass was trimmed neatly, the flower beds had no weeds and sidewalks were spotless. The housekeeping service was the most responsive group of cleaners I have ever witnessed. If we left our room for more than an hour, someone would come through and remake the bed, refold all of the towels, and restock the complimentary water, soda and beer in the mini fridge. Given the amount of attention the resort workers spent on keeping the place spotlessly clean and making our stay as effortlessly pleasurable as possible, I was very surprised to notice a common problem throughout the whole resort: the toilets in nearly every public bathroom I went into were dirty and unflushed.

The reason why this was the case was a simple stupid usability issue. The toilet in our room’s bathroom had an automatic flush mechanism on the back. This automatic flush was housed in a black plastic case.
The public toilets on the other hand, were not set up with automatic flush. Instead, they had a plunger that needed to be pushed in order to flush the toilet. However, instead of the usual metal handle, the plunger was a black plastic button that needed to be pushed in order to flush the toilet. This black plastic plunger looked very similar to the black plastic case that housed the automatic flush mechanism in our room toilet.

Now with careful inspection, the average user could figure out how to use the handle and flush the toilet. But after a couple of my favorite bartender Victor’s Piña Coladas, the average user would not be prone to careful inspection. At first glance, when a user sees a black plastic box mounted on a toilet, their initial assumption is that it will flush automatically. I will fully admit that it took me a couple of days to notice that these were not automatic toilets. The poor usability design of this toilet plunger caused a resort-wide epidemic of unflushed toilets and unsanitary conditions.
The way to fix this problem would be to put some sort of indication on the black plastic plunger that would tip the user off that they need to complete the final step of the process. A white icon of water running or of a toilet flushing or even just the word “Flush” would go a long way to help the user understand what is needed of them.


Chad's Bio Coming Soon!

More About Virgil

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey – based in Minneapolis Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple ‘hats’ of Principle Human Solutions Architect and SharePoint Architect.

Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project and never forgetting that the end user experience has the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies ‘out of the box’ as much as possible with a focus on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. Virgil regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe.

Posted: 2/23/2015 12:00:00 AM by Brian Haukos | with 0 comments