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    Toilets and the DMV

    At some point, I’ll get back to my regular posting schedule, I promise! For now, I want to share a post inspired by a trip to the bathroom. Don’t worry, it’s not gross!

    Many universities and companies are trying to go green, and they’re installing fancy toilets that allow you to choose the amount of water needed for each flush. Most of these toilets make it pretty simple with a button for solid waste, and a button for liquid waste. The toilet I saw yesterday, however, made it difficult. First, the instructions were really tiny, so I didn’t really notice that it was an environmentally-friendly toilet until I was turning to leave. Seriously, I must be the only nerd that actually looks twice at the handle to see if there’s a blog post waiting to be written, but I looked a little closer at the instructions. The designers wanted you to pull the handle up for liquid waste, and down for solid waste. Now, this, to me, is poor design for a couple of reasons. First, we’re all used to pushing a handle down to flush, so the immediate response from the majority of people would be to do what they’ve always done. Second, I don’t have hard statistics on this, but I think it’s safe to assume that in a public restroom, most people will have liquid waste. So, why make them think harder to go green? If the designers had just flipped the functionality, I think the toilets would save more water!

    I saw some statistics a few years ago about re-wording the forms at the DMV to increase the number of organ donors. In most states, the form reads, “Please check the box below if you would like to be an organ donor.” Very few people checked the box, because most people won’t take an extra step. However, when they changed the wording to read, “Please check the box if you do not want to be a donor”, they had more donors. In theory, the same number of people chose not to check the box, but in this case, that action resulted in a positive consequence for the donor pool.

    So, what do toilets and DMV have in common? They have initiatives to promote, and they’re dealing with a largely apathetic public. If you really want your initiatives to work, it’s gotta be a no brainer for your customers!

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