Get Insights Into Human Behavior by Paying Attention to the Everyday

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Looking for insights into human behavior?

Sometimes they are right in front of us. The problem is that we are in such an automatic mode, that we don’t notice what other people have done. We are often mindless (as opposed to mindful) observers of the world around us. It’s a shame that we are, because these insights can be powerful inspirations for innovation.

Below you will find pictures from three different locations I’ve visited lately: A restaurant restroom, a gas station and a Walmart. In all these pictures there’s clear evidence of what people’s preferences are. Take a look, and use these questions to guide your reflection:

  • What do I see?
  • Why might this be happening?
  • In what ways can this be improved?

I’ll share some thoughts on the other side of the pictures…

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The Restaurant Restroom

I find it fascinating that people clearly have a preference for the left push button handles, most likely because they presume it’s the “hot” water. It’s not. In fact, both left and right push buttons release cold water. Because the wear is so lopsided, it’s also possible that as the spring timer runs out and the water stops, people re-press the left button again, even though both buttons give cold water!

Both faucets also act the same way – although, the top picture is from the faucet that’s further from the urinals. From that we could infer that people go for what’s closest as well.

Incidentally, I frequent this establishment and still find myself pressing the left button handle both on first and secondary presses.

In what ways would you improve this?

Gas Station

This phenomenon is in multiple places, not just at gas stations. The “No” button gets a major workout. Apparently most people don’t want receipts, or car washes. These pads get worn out and need replacing all because of one button.

In what ways would you improve this design?

Walmart

I went to buy cat litter and loved this image (I took it right before I bought the litter). The upper and lower shelves are untouched! Everyone has been pulling from the middle shelf. As you can see from the picture (albeit barely,) the cart is just below the edge of the middle shelf. It’s almost effortless to load up the cart with kitty litter. (I actually took some from the upper and lower shelves for fun.)

How could the experience of kitty litter purchasing be improved?

These are just three examples from everyday experiences that highlight how people’s preferences can be inferred without having to even ask a single person. (In the past I’ve blogged about a couple of other examples where people ignore the intended design of parking lots and walking paths.)

I also look at these examples as inspiration to design things right the first time. Sure, components can be replaced and even re-designed, but why not get it right? Why not do some homework up front to see what it is people do?

I’d love for you to share other examples of products that aren’t being misused per se, but clearly have aspects that are being over/under used because they are under-designed in certain ways. Share them below or on Twitter. Use hashtag #OverUnderDesign .

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Michael Plishka
Michael Plishka is the President and Founder of ZenStorming Solutions, LLC an innovation design consultancy. He believes in co-design methodologies, sharing design thinking essentials - empowering people and companies to make a difference with their products and services.

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