relief interfaces

Here is restroom service design has gone a bit awry, as the usefulness of both of these interfaces could be debated. That said, one of them is clearly more considerate of users and its context and than the other. Let’s start with the worse one:


What is a user supposed to take away from when the “next inspection is due”? Would that not mean that the less time until the next inspection, the worse shape the restroom is likely going to be in? More time elapsed from previous inspection likely means more wear and tear on the facilities, but as it isn’t revealed how often these “inspections” happen (hourly? daily?), those expectations are impossible to set. This is seemingly more of an employee-facing interface, stretched to appear consumer-facing (although in that case what is stopping an employee from jamming on the “Excellent” button repeatedly?).

This interface earnestly claims “your feedback is important to us”, before potentially undoing the cleanliness one one’s hands by touching a potentially dirty interface, ask yourself how might the data from “Poor-Fair-Good-Excellent” even be used? If you feel the restroom is dirty (by your standards), this interface bids you to “inform a staff member” – implying that giving feedback with this interface has nothing to do with when this restroom is cleaned. So is it tied to individual employee compensation on a micro-level? Used to evaluate whether to renew the contract with a cleaning company on a macro-level (in which case, does the “poor” button even work)? As this interface appears to be the property of the staffing agency ABM ( I’m guessing data is used in the first, more punitive sense (all the more reason for an employee to rate the facilities under their supervision as “excellent”), although it could also be used to try and gauge how many cleanings a particular restroom “needs” on a typical day, given the amount of foot traffic for its location.

There are a slew of things that aren’t quite right about this interface, so besides changing the “next inspection” to instead say when the last inspection was, I’d turn this into a foot-based interface, and have kick-plates of some sort installed to allow users to rate cleanliness without having to actually touch this thing.


This interface reimagines the abstract “next inspection” from the previous interface as more a consumer-facing piece of data by sharing instead the time it was “last serviced”. While still not particularly intuitive (after all, how many people have an off-hand knowledge of the number of times a restroom in a busy international airport should be “serviced” in a given day to conform to their perceptions of “clean”?), it gives a clear idea of when the last time someone cleaned the bathroom was — or at least someone who knew how to operate this interface to log that they had cleaned this particular bathroom.

Unlike the first interface, this one presents alternate choices in case one has arbitrarily decided (without seeing the actual condition of the restroom) that fourteen hours is too long of a time to go between restroom cleanings. In that case, it provides you directions and walking distance to the next-closest restroom, although it seemingly omits whether that restroom has been cleaned any more recently than this one. One change I’d make to this interface would be changing the “Last Serviced” time to be even more intuitive by switching the number of hours that have elapsed since the last servicing (instead of making a potential user check their watch to see how long ago that was, particularly tricky if they’re flying in from a different timezone).

See also how China manages social norms in restrooms, or how Myanmar presents guidelines on how to use a public restroom (or, as they prefer to call them, “Public Mobile Urination Rooms”).

Finally, for a nice list of “rater biases” that the first interface could potentially suffer from see below (via here):


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