J W Marriot, Pune: Washbasin Etiquette.

At HFI, one of our instructors had said jokingly, “With your training in User Experience, you can make a shoe better. Just that you may not use your training for fixing one”! Indeed thinking about User Experience is essential component in a brand’s make up. Even if the brand is not an app or a website, but is in hospitality. Every interaction that the customers have with the brand need to be carefully controlled.

A few days back I was at the J W Marriott in Pune, Maharashtra India. After a nice lunch at one of their restaurants I headed for the washroom. Here is what I saw at the washbasin-


Any modern washroom is likely to have a touch-free faucet, and indeed this one was no different. But they had to say so on the top of the knob! Why?

Inspite of visible and quite in-your-face typography, I could see some fingerprints on the knob. Evidently, many of the patrons did touch / press / tap on the flat top of the knob and expected the water to flow. While all you had to do was to hold your hands under it and let the infra-red sensor do the trick.

This raised a few questions –

1] Why were the patrons touching the knob inspite of the warning?

2] Were they unable to read english? (in case of asian or non-english speaking patrons, this could’ve been the case.

3] Why did they have to print the warning there? I had encountered automatic, touch-free faucets before but I don’t recall reading such message anywhere else.

My guess was simply this: The design of the tap was wrong. The tall column and the flat top was inviting the user to operate it. It looked too much like the one that needs a press. The design was simply giving a wrong affordance cue (an affordance cue is an indication that a specific action has to be taken by the user, such as a button that prompts clicking or a slider switch that prompts swiping on interfaces).

If you are designing a water tap that needs no operating, design it in such a way that it gives the right affordance cue, e.g. no hint of operating mechanism on top of the water tap. What should worry J W Marriott is that they have chosen a design that may create a less than perfect User Experience. Even a water faucet counts when you are working towards ‘User / Customer Delight’

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