Why consistency and ease of learning are vital—even in bathrooms.
So, here I am at a conference for usability and user experience, with usability more on my mind than it is even normally. Deep in thought on some very important usability issue, I am sure, I found myself starting to walk into the doorway of the men’s bathroom. Luckily I noticed quickly what was happening. But what is key is why it happened.
This is a design problem, not an oblivious conference attendee problem. The restroom I had been using was set up to have the women’s on the right and the men’s on the left. But this one had the women’s on the left and the men’s on the right! At first I thought this may be a floor thing, as I had been using restroom on one floor and this was a different floor. This would still be a bad usability problem, but it would make some amount of “sense” (or not be quite as odd). But, no. The two bathrooms in the conference area (on the same floor and a short walk from each other) switch the left/right location of the women’s room. Check out the two images. The left/right positions of the restrooms is inconsistent throughout the resort.
This is a perfect example of why consistency and ease of learning is a key part of usability. We train ourselves to do something one way, and if the system changes… well… we may find ourselves walking into the wrong restroom. I do wonder how many other people have had this problem. Considering the number of bars and the casino in the resort, this could be quite an issue!