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Tag Archives: upgrades

Consider the following photo…

It looks like a textbook example taken out of Donald Norman’s “The Design of Everyday Things”.

Can you spot what’s wrong with our urinal subject?

First some background. This urinal never used to be part of a waterless system. Some time ago the building custodians at Riverpark Mowbray upgraded all the urinals in an effort to save water and therefore costs.

I can’t help but relate this urinal upgrade with software enhancements.

The Users Perspective
The upgrade could have been so simple from a User’s perspective. All the User needs is the urinal. Just remove the pipe. Plug the hole in the wall or maybe even cover it with an informational poster on the waterless system and how it’s contributing to the saving of our environment? Heck, it could even be an advertising opportunity! (Those are quite nice when you’ve got a long pee)
Instead, just like user’s scan webpages, the message is ignored. There is perceived action that the urinal needs to be flushed, the principle of Affordance.

The Upgrade Costs
Add the cost of the upgrade to the waterless system plus shutting off the water plus creating the sign. I assume some external contractors were brought in to change the drain and reservoir system? Costly, but worth it. The sign is made of perspex, reasonably high-quality too. Costly, but not worth it. Why?

Pointless Feedback
The Message is not needed. The Message, if needed, is inappropriate. One simply can’t flush the system because there is no water to begin with. In fact, if there was no pipe attached to the urinal, one wouldn’t feel the need to flush afterwards. We’re so tuned into using the devices we’re given, that even if they don’t work, we try use them anyway.
I’ve noticed on several occasions after using this urinal that I still lift my hand to flush and nothing happens. The message is not working because the device to flush is still present.

A case for User Testing?
User Testing this situation would have resolved the oddities with this urinal. (Wouldn’t that be awkward!) Sure, there’s an extra cost, but as a metaphor for Software Development, a cost that would be worth improving the User Experience.

Victims of the Best of Intentions
The only losers here are those men with faulty prostates who use the flushers for the same reasons Pavlov rings the bell, to trigger a reaction. Poor guys.

What do you think?