About a year ago, I started collecting photos of toilet flush buttons.
Bathrooms have many interesting design challenges, so this seemed like a fun and funny project.
Unfortunately, it turns out that flush buttons are really boring. But why?
First of all, it’s usually quite easy to figure out how to use flush a toilet. The UI is very straightforward. In the rare case where it doesn’t work it’s normally due to a fault in the flushing mechanism, rather than because the user didn’t understand how to use the button or lever.
The second thing that makes flush buttons boring is they are practically stateless. They don’t need to communicate any information that the end user cares about.
So, talking about flush buttons in practice means talking about artistic design decisions, rather than objective advantages and disadvantages. There’s little to learn from looking at flush button pics.
So, what’s a more exciting bathroom feature to look at? Locks for toilet stalls!
Why bathroom locks are more interesting
When using a bathroom lock a lot more things can go wrong than when flushing the toilet. Locking a door also requires that the door can be easily closed first.
But, more importantly, locks naturally have state that’s important for the user to know: locked vs. unlocked. Locks must communicate their current state to reassure the user that the door will remain closed.
Conveniently, someone else already started a Twitter account with pictures of bathroom locks. Go check it out.