As the newest employee at Centralis, I’ve had many opportunities to learn new things not just about UX, but about our office environment and culture as well. At Centralis, we have two bathrooms, which are single-occupancy and unisex…both of them should be fair game, right? Well, a couple of weeks into the job, I noticed a funny pattern – women always use the left bathroom if it’s available, and men use the right one.
Here’s a sketch of the layout of our main office space so you can better see what I mean:
Now, this might not seem like a big deal to most people, but my “UX brain” was intrigued: I wanted to know the assumptions and perceptions that were driving this behavior. So what does a good UXer do? User research of course! Each employee at Centralis graciously spent a few minutes with me as I asked them about their bathroom preference and the reasons behind it.
Through these interviews, I learned that all employees could list off a few reasons why they preferred one bathroom or the other. For example, “The left bathroom has a shorter toilet” or “The right bathroom has a nicer faucet”. Interestingly, most did not articulate a “rule” straight away about one bathroom being for the men and the other for the women – only when I probed them specifically about gender did they say things like “I wouldn’t use the left bathroom unless I had to…it feels like the women’s room for some reason!” In other words, most employees had perceived that there was a pattern related to gender and acknowledged that it played a role in their bathroom choice, but they were not consciously aware of it until they were asked.
This example may be a little silly, but it highlights the way our brains work here at Centralis. Our day to day work involves watching users behave in certain situations and analyzing the influences that impact that behavior (such as environmental factors and social constructs). Since we are constantly observing the world through a “UX lens”, it’s only natural that we would turn it around on ourselves and investigate our own behavior!