Going all the way in the airport bathroom
A few minutes remain until my flight was to board and then partake in a three hour festival of igniting a mixture of dead plants and animals in a rapidly revolving set of contraptions to create enough force to result in the awesome feat of flight. I had to relieve myself. The closest bathroom is clearly indicated overhead every 30-50 meters with words and symbols, I am about 2 gates away from one in DFW. As I approach the genders are clearly separated with arrows, words, and cowboy/girl icons. Entering the correct one is a breeze as the door has been replaced with a U shaped entry way. The facilities themselves are in a U shape as well; on the left are a row of stalls, the right a row of urinals, in the middle are the cleansing apparatuses.
Going left is easy enough until I reach for the first stall and push only to find it locked. Moving on to the second, locked. Third, fourth, and fifth, all locked. A wall of unreflective aluminum taunting me that maybe they were pull-me-doors, but a quick second glance proves this thought incorrect as 3cm of metal would prove that difficult. I decide my time is short and the in-flight luxuries are calling my name so I go to the other side of the room to relive myself in a different manner. The exchange complete and my clothing returned to the closed position the urinal automatically flushes, sensing my departure. I place my hands into the sink with the thought of producing water, magically, at that moment the thought controlled sink produces a stream of lukewarm water. I also notice on top of the nozzle an image of a hand with motion squiggles, indicating the water is not controlled by my mind, but by my hands. How nice, I do not have to think, thank you. I move my left hand slowly over to the soap dispenser which is also conveniently located adjacent to the water nozzle; I will produce soap with the magic of my hands!
No soap. I move my hand again under the device. Nothing. Examining it there are no symbols, icons, pictures, or even a brand name on it. Possible that it is out of soap? I reach over to the next sink and move my hand, all for naught. My last two liquid moving events taught me not to think but to act. Now I am the butt of a wonderful joke. The soap dispenser is of course waiting for me to push down on it, the process takes both hands. Soap in hand I can now remove the additional unhappy things I just picked up by touching it. Lather. Rinse. Rinse some more because the faucet creator obviously concluded that 2.3 seconds is enough time to remove all soap from my hands even though I was still contracting my muscles to make my hands rub each other, lovingly. The second round of 2.3 seconds for water dispersion is over and I agree with the time limit, hands are clean and free of soap.
Another dilemma presents itself. I now have a choice, do I use one of two hand driers (that are at about thigh level) or do I grab a couple of paper towels and risk the Internet's creator's respite? Deciding I love trees so much I want to rub them, I reach towards the bottom of the dispenser and before I can fully form the grabbing motion with my fingers the length of the towel grows. Amazing. I let the growth continue until the smart device stopped its motions. Grabbing the towel with awe and wonder I realize part of it is already wet, and not from the water still clinging to my skin, but because the towel grew to such length that it had rested on the counter where water had freed itself from other traveling hands and decided to be absorbed by my paper towel. I go ahead and repeat previous motions to get two more towels, but I grab them from the contraption before they can touch the sink counter.
Hands mostly dried I pretend I am number 23 and take aim... only to find there is nothing to aim at. Glance right, no trash receptacle. Glance left and no can there either. Then using the most complicated and awe inspiring machine ever, I recall seeing a black hollow cylinder in the middle of the U shaped entry/exit way. I retreat from the cave of excrement, deposit the wet dead trees and head towards my gate as I hear my boarding group being called.
There are several important lessons to take from my bathroom experience that can be applied to most industries.
When you teach/train/condition your users to think and act a particular way when using your product you better always make sure that behavior will always succeed.
If the first few items are controlled by motion sensors, don't make one a push button.
If right clicking always gives the ability to edit an object or perform an action on it, don't disable that feature on some objects.
Clearly label items and make their status easily understood.
Finding a bathroom was easy. The urinal clearly stated "self-flushing." The faucet had motion indicators on it. While the stall was just a metal latch which had to be tested for availability.
A green checkmark is good. A red X is bad. Pair icons with easily accessible reasons for the status and suggested rectifying actions and your ears will not burn at 2am.
Test/use your products.
Does it really make sense to have the trash can outside the bathroom? Did you ever wash your hands? Does the paper towel dispenser even work? Are the toilet stalls broken or actual in use?
That last patch released, is it supposed to disable the ability to power on VMs? Ever try to copy and paste data from the notes application to an email? My whole operating system is a virus huh, really?
Listen to your users.
Every day a pile of used paper towels is on the sink yet the trashcan is basically empty. There is always a line in the guy's bathroom. Water use went up with the new equipment.
90% of email attachments are the same spreadsheet passed around with updates. Electing to use personal equipment instead of company issued. Asking for password resets often. Stop using your product and go to a competitor's.
Written by Eric Wamsley
Posted: August 30th, 2011 2:02pm
Topic: process improvement