Fixing Restroom UX. It is time to end the "auto-restroom"

The modern restroom, with all its (nearly) touchless tech is such a weird, and at times, awful experience. Self-flushing toilets, automatic soap, water with no hot or cold controls and paper towels you have to hail like a cab are all now an everyday experience. And it seems that the “auto restroom” is solving a problem that did not exist. With the exception of the Dyson hand dryer, I find all the touchless features fewer conveniences and more frustrations.  

Automatically Wasteful

To me, the automatic stuff is wasteful. Was a lever to flush so inferior to a sensor? Same with handles that let me turn on or off water or pump soap. How many random, extra flushes happen?  How much wasted soap gets shot out to hands that have moved on? How many extra towels get spit out by the automatic towel dispenser? 

Maybe the waste doesn’t matter, perhaps the cost savings really is less than letting humans handle the controls. However, experience is not always measured in dollars. While a business might somehow be saving on the total operations cost of a bathroom, the true cost is passed on to their employees, customers or guests.

Rage inducing toilets

There is nothing like the aggressive, self-flushing toilet to ruin my day. No matter what compromised position I am in a toilet that decides its time to flush without warning is always unwelcome. Not only wasteful, but it normally involves the unsuspecting user getting a surprise splash - especially with the industrial strength toilet found in public and corporate spaces. A quick aside, do toilets need that much flushing power? I honestly have no idea. Recently I dubbed Sloan branded auto-flushing toilet the most aggressive of the bunch. It’s an unscientific survey, but every time I have a rotten “auto-toilet” experience I look down and there is the Sloan name taunting me. Do you have an auto-flush nemesis?

I know I am not alone. There is a Facebook page called "I hate it when auto-flush toilets flushes when you’re peeing”. If you Google Auto Flush Toilets + Hate you get over 63,000 results. Reddit has a (NSFW) sub called F&%# automatic flushing toilets. Yelp and Yahoo! both had discussions on the topic and xinroman at I Hate Robots has a great post on the topic.

Finally, if you are a parent with little one, you know that what is rage inducing for an adult is pure terror for a toddler, who, while crying and begging to not have to use the toilet, is getting sprayed as the toilet constantly flushes. Not a great user experience. 

My solution for restroom UX.

  • Go back to levers to flush the toilet.
  • Reinstall the sink controls for water, both on and off and hot and cold
  • Add a manual way to get soap.
  • Put a lever on those towel dispensers
  • Keep or install the Dyson hand dryer, that thing is great.
  • Add a trashcan near the door, duh
  • Put a floor-mounted door control near the exit so I can exit using useful (nearly) touchless tech.

That's it. Though I wonder how it is that the automatic door is not the most common "auto" feature of the modern bathroom?