Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Crappy User Agreement

[Disclaimer: Fundamentalists and ultra-conservative Baptist types read at your own risk. This post and its links discuss human functionality using several slangfully descriptive terms considered taboo by many. You have been warned. If you can get past the lingo, it might serve well in understanding how the world works with respect to your personal infirmities.]

Leave it to Vache Folle to opine about usability of public commodes. Although some might consider such a topic to be left to the locker room, the locker room itself is the source here. Since I have considerable professional experience - a twenty year career in the building industry to be exact - with the root causes of VF's dilemma, I will expound upon that experience with authority. Although I gave a content disclaimer at the head of this post, it is nonetheless something that affects each one of us as we try to live life on this planet.

He directs user comments toward the designers of toilets. But these comments will fall upon deaf ears and here's why: You, or any other user, is not part of the equation. The crappiest user agreement of all is the one where the user is not part of the agreement. And that's how quite a bit of our lives are lived in modernity.

You see, architects place potties in their designs based upon which toilet models will fit into a stall size with the required space left over according to the building code. If space is tight, it's almost guaranteed the toilet will be functionally truncated. Also, design parameters in public restroom layouts have everything to do with accessibility and nothing to do with usability. It doesn't matter if somebody in a wheelchair can use the dang thing, just as long as they can wheel into the stall and transfer from the wheelchair to the throne using the grab bars provided.

Builders buy hoppers in bulk and look for the best deal. Nevermind if the can can be used as long as it meets the architect's design, meets code and can save money. It needs to be shipped on time and the construction crew needs ease of installation, and it needs to satisfy the examination of building inspectors. Toilet manufacturers tailor their products to how well they do on the showroom floor of builder's conventions, and to environmental regulations that target water use.

Now for another major concept. The majority of potties are designed, produced, shipped and installed without the user being the direct customer. Everybody in the toilet chain is not a direct end user of the product they handle. Pretty much a private homeowner who needs to replace a toilet is the only direct customer. Maybe somebody who designs and builds their own custom home as well. When is the last time you took your significant other out to look at new home models and were asked, "What kind of toilet to you want?" Or in your office orientation on the first day of a new job?

And last, but not least by any means, is the lack of being able to test drive the product. I can test drive a new car, play with a new computer, order the appetizer sampler plate, try on new clothes. How does one find the toity that's right for them? Vache Folle, the only advice I can give is to say, "jiggle the handle." Other than that, have a crappy day. :(

1 comment:

  1. This explains a lot. "End user" is a particularly apt expression in this context.