Are You Experienced? A Hand Washing Mental Model

I’m going to borrow Mr. Hendrix’s line to document user experiences that could be better.

The picture above is from the men’s bathroom in the Crain Communications Inc building in Detroit.

On the right is a soap dispenser. It uses motion-detection to dispense soap.

On the left is a faucet. It requires me to lift the handle to dispense water.

If you work in a building, as I do in Chicago, that has both a motion-detector soap dispenser and a motion-detector faucet, your brain doesn’t even think about the hand-washing process and you unconsciously wave your hand for soap and then for water.

Then you go to a building like the one above and you wave your hand under the soap dispenser, get some soap, then you wave your hand under the faucet, and get confused. For a second, you wonder where the water is. Is the motion-detector broken? Am I not waving in the right place? Is the water off? Then you remember and feel a little embarrassed.

The mental model I have for soap and water is that their dispensers work similarly. Your customers have the same expectations from your website.

If you build a form for your customers, make sure all the fields work the same way and that when they tab to the next field, it’s the next field. If the error message on one form field is red and above the field, don’t place the next error message under the form field or make it green. If you add a row of drop-down filters, make sure they filter the content similarly. Don’t make your customers think about how a feature should work.

Your customers may need to learn how to do something when they visit your site the first time. But, that’s it. Make the learning curve short and painless and your customers will return.

Oh, and if you build a bathroom that requires me to grab a handle to exit the bathroom, put the paper towels and a garbage can near the door just before you leave the bathroom.

A better experience would be to make the bathroom door push open from the inside, so I don’t have to grab a dirty handle right after I wash my hands.