Everyone has opinions about toilet paper holders, right? Should it roll over the top? Should it unroll from the back? Oh, the debate!
Here’s one for you. At the hotel this morning, the toilet paper roll was placed properly in the fixture (over the top, obviously), but there was a problem. For some reason, the dispenser had a backplate, and it was attached to the vanity with top screws. It was a nice enough fixture, but when you pulled on the toilet paper, the top screws would tear into to roll–tearing the paper. This was dumb. The fixture had only one job! Instead, it made a worse experience than just putting the roll on a peg or setting the roll on the counter or just throwing it on the floor.
The fixture may have been too shallow, but that wasn’t the fatal flaw. The installation of the fixture was the real culprit. Whoever installed it, the carpenter or the maintenance technician, was ultimately in charge of the user experience, and they missed the mark. They likely did not even put themselves in the seat of the user. Who knows, they likely had a project list a mile long, and this was just one more checkbox, but they failed because they didn’t master the experience by trying it.
I know what you’re thinking: How in the world is a maintenance technician a designer? While they aren’t “designing,” they are creating an experience, and if you create an experience you have a responsibility to experience yourself.
As designers, we sometimes fall short of mastering the experience. Getting the job done and moving on to the next task is the way we live our lives, but when you experience masterful design, it is pleasant—often noticeable in the simplicity. The best-designed experiences flawlessly work: the toilet paper freely flows from the fixture (but not over-roll), the smartphone can be used by a three-year-old, the website is intuitive, the navigation to baggage claim is clear. At best, poor design is irritating, and at worst, the experience doesn’t work for some or all people.
If you are creating an experience for someone else at a minimum experience the experience at best master it:
- If you are creating a presentation, record yourself and see it as the audience will.
- If you are writing an email, ask yourself whether you would read it (or even open the subject line).
- If you are creating a budget, look at your last six months of spending and see what how far out of reality you are.
- If you are installing a toilet paper holder, sit down and see whether it works.
More than likely you are in the business of creating an experience for someone (even if for yourself). Be great at experiencing it and ask the following questions:
- Can it be simpler?
- Is it elegant?
- Is it usable/broken?
- Can it be more beautiful?
- Is it intuitive?
- Will it last?
- Can you remove one more moving part?
- Is it efficient?
Be bold. Design something cool.