The good, bad and unfriendly side of the modern public restroom

Fail One:  Waving at Ghosts in the Public Restroom

I am a huge fan of automation and personal hygiene, so the fairly recent adoption of hands free toilets and sinks at just about every public restroom I frequent has raised my quality of life tenfold.  Where the toilets succeed and a majority of the sinks fail is in their ability (or inability) to manually override the automation.  I have found myself waving furiously at the little red sensor on an automated sink more times than I can count while a simple push of a button can override the most insensitive of toilet sensors.  Since accessibility and user experience should be the top priority in any design, how does this get past the prototyping and testing phases and how does it make it to market on such a wide scale?  Maybe the better question is, who is going to fix it?

Fail Two:  A Small Experience in a Big World

What motivated me to dig in to this subject was a similarly bad experience I recently had that could have been avoided if just for some simple real-world usability testing.  I won’t name name’s but as I was attempting to set up an online account for my new in-shoe sensor so that a major athletic brand can track and make available all my running data, I found myself redirected to the mobile version of their website.  Alone, this is completely acceptable; I am running a beta version of Firefox and I’m sure they just haven’t updated their sniffers to catch it yet.   What isn’t acceptable is there is no way for me to manually navigate to the full desktop version of the site; no way for me to manually flush!  With the overwhelming number of mobile devices, browsers and user agents as well as their desktop counterparts, having no way to manually set preferences on your mobile or desktop site can lead to bad user experiences and at worst, an unusable website.

As I sit at my desk like some sort of caveman, manually typing on a full keyboard, using a mouse and navigating through multiple applications on dual monitors, all I ask is for a big, shiny, hypnotizing, robust and image-packed user experience.   When I’m back out in the real world, surfing the web while driving or crossing the street, I’ll take the mobile version.  But in any case, if things don’t work out and your sniffer doesn’t work as it should, give me the option of turning off the autopilot and making the choice myself.   Give me a handle to flush.



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