By March 24, 2009

Double tank toilet handle usability quiz

I was using the restroom at a nifty coffee shop near downtown. They have one of those dual tank toilets that use less water if you just need to flush some piss down the toilet. If you, uh, make a larger deposit you can flush the whole tank. Pretty cool!

So, there I am, taking a piss, and I’m looking at the flush handle. Here, check it out:

http://gallery.drfaulken.com/d/5872-4/dual_tank_flush_handle.jpg

It’s hard to tell from this photo (cameraphone, sorry), but the handle points down. Based on the icons on the top of the handle, what way would you manipulate the handle to do a half-tank flush?

It might be obvious to you, but as a usability nerd I find this a little confusing. The problem with this interface is that it’s based on perspective. If one perceives the icons refer to the handle, then you may interpret that you must pull the handle towards you to do a half-flush. However, if one perceives that the icons refer to the orientation of the top of the handle, then you must push the handle away from you to do a half-flush.

What do you think is the right way to do a half-flush?

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7 Comments on "Double tank toilet handle usability quiz"

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  1. dude says:

    pull to number 1 flush
    push to unleash the flushing fury

  2. roclar says:

    I am going to go with pull for a full flush and push for a half flush. That makes the arrows move the direction they point and also proves the motive for your post.

    Nice of the camera phone to focus in on the pipe instead of the handle that was in the center of the frame. 😛

  3. BushPutin says:

    Really? Usability? You’re talking about a fucking toilet flusher, right?

  4. BushPutin says:

    You can also just do what most people seem to do with a public or semi-public bathroom. Just leave your evidence behind for someone with ‘toilet flushing experience’ to come along….

  5. godsend1 says:

    Push, like the arrow says.

  6. Configures says:

    Push to half-flush, I’d guess.

    Bushputin: For people who use toilet flush handles, usability seems like a reasonable concern. An example of poor usability would be a flush handle that required a lot of hand strength at an uncomfortable/painful angle. Drfaulken’s example is simply less awful (if at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again…).

  7. drfaulken says:

    I asked a few folks at work — two said push for a half-flush, one said pull.

    The correct answer is to push for a half-flush. However, the mixed answers there and here illustrate the problem with the handle design. An interface has a greater chance of failure when it relies on perception and interpretation. It’s one of the main reasons the Web sites I architect have as simple and explicit labels as possible.

    BushPutin: yeah, toilet usability. 🙂 You should hear me bitch about door handle usability!