Hotel Showers and Parking…Now there a Combination


Hotel Showers and Parking…Now there a Combination

Seth Grodin is a marketing guru and blogger who is usually on the cutting edge of all things good. Correspondent John reminded me to check his blog concerning the complexity of public interface design.  He has three simple rules — you can go to his blog to get the other two:

Seth uses hotel showers as an example:

The more often a device is used by first-time users, the more standardized the interface should be.

For example, the shower in a hotel. Some of the most elegant, clever design ever created by man exists in the dials and wheels in the hotel shower. All of it is worse than a waste–it’s dangerous and time-consuming. Guests don’t want to learn a new way to turn on the shower, they don’t want to burn themselves, they just want the water to come out, at the right temperature, in the right direction, with the right quantity. The first time.

This is one of my biggest complaints about hotels.  Why not a couple of simple knobs, hot on the left, cold on the right?

John adds the following:

I’ve always thought that parking should be an activity that people don’t think twice about…almost invisible. It should be a result of great public design in all phases of the parking experience.

Why does our interface with the parker need to be complex. We want to simply get their money and send them on their way. I suggest that if revenue control manufacturers had their great aunts or grand mothers come in and test their POF or lane equipment they would have a very different design.

At a trade show a few years ago. I went to each P and D manufacturer and walked up to the machine. I told them to tell me nothing and I tried to use it by simply looking at it and trying to follow the instructions.

Now I know a lot about parking and equipment. In every case, I was stumped. It seemed like it was their goal to make it more complicated that it had to be.

A friend once said to me “Why is it that the parking industry is the only one where the mag stripe on your car can go on any which way on different machines. Go to the ATM or to the gas pump or to the super market, and the mag stripe is either down and to the left or on the left side and up if you swipe vertically.” Walk through the IPI this next month and see how many different ways there are to put your card in.

Seth Grodin and John are right. We need to be transparent, easy, and forgotten.



Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

8 Responses

  1. What great observation. Seth Godin has managed to simplify something we spend a lot of time trying to complicate…….our equipment. Complex functions should be buried further into a process, not at the first interface as you say John. Think about a car. Most have the ignition slot for the key in the same place, but the a/c and the complicated dashboard functions come after the car is started. Enjoyed the blog. Kevin

  2. I’ve seen multi-space meters with full keyboards. Now that’s itimidating for even those of us in the industry. Look at IPS single space meters, they have it right. Four buttons on the meter. +time, -time, OK, cancel. What could be simpler and more easy to use?

  3. The same simplicity should apply to signage in Garages. Too many facilities signs blend into the”decor” such they are invisible to the naked Eye or so many signs they become confusing. Keep it simple stupid.

  4. Coming from many years of trying to interpret and deliver, what is the customer’s idea of ‘simple’; I can say it ain’t simple. You take 100 people put them in a room and ask them what’s simple you’ll get 100 different ideas. What is needed is a common design standard that can be taught to the masses. Like the shower model, none of us knew how to use the now standard hotel design until we played with it a time or two. The hospitality industry agreed on a single interface which simplified our next stay, and we the traveling public, appreciated it. It seems to me the NPA or IPI should take this on, design the standard and then get the manufactures to get in line.

  5. What am I missing here. There is no standard for showers in hotels. You have you push in pull out and turn, there are levers you turn with no push in /out, there are levers you pull out for water but turn either right or left for hot or cold, there are buttons on the spout to get the water to run out the nozzle, and buttons above the ‘lever/knob” to put the water in the spout or nozzle. Marriott may have a standard, Hilton may have a standard, but there is no standard across the hospitality industry. “Getting manufacturers in line” is not going to be successful unless they are involved in the process. JVH

    1. John, I don’t travel nearly as much as you do, I’m sure; but 98% of the hotels I stay in have a common user interface for the shower. Actually the analogy is all wet, if you’ll forgive the pun. The real point is manufactures don’t have any ability to influence the acceptance of any specific user interface. Your computer interface is a better analogy. There are many things about it that are not very intuitive or efficient but they have become familiar. The keyboard to start, even the mouse takes a degree of work to master. But one or two dominant companies decided what we would accept and we did. No such dominance exists in the parking equipment manufacturing space. That’s why I believe you or Mike Drow of Standard Parking or Peter Lange of Texas A&M, have far more power to influence what the standard could become than any manufacturer. Just my humble opinion…..

  6. “…and specialisation is my doom” is something I often quote people when I don’t see the obvious.
    I think that is kind of poignant here. Too often we think we are doing the best way of things – and fail to see the stuff out the window.

    I recently got into a debate with a P&A manufacturer – for a system designed around ANPR. Therefore when you pay you must enter some details.
    Users may not use the equipment the way you intend. Often you have to cover their failings.
    e.g. if you enter you pin in wrong – an ATM will not let you get your money. Unfortunately with ANPR – if you enter your plate in wrong, they system should you are right and something in technology has failed (nothing is perfect).
    HOWEVER, this does not mean you don’t confirm the customers information.
    e.g. if you pay someone online it asks you “Are you sure you want to pay….”

    All parking technologies, regardless of how simple and how smart – unless its a completely manual process (coins into slots) should confirm things for you. Often confirmations need to be in a form different to entered (like a cheque).
    e.g. Entered = $200, plate ABCI23
    “Do you want to pay Two Hundred Dollars for A-B-C-I-Two-Three?”
    Then people have to think before pressing ok.

    This could become a problem in the future of showers. As touch screens everywhere appear.

    Spoken from someone who has once stood naked in the hotel shower, tried the different dials found a way to freeze myself with cold water, then boil myself…….before getting to a reasonable level.
    I am sure the dials made sense to the “Shower consultants” and “Shower Professionals”……….all of which never went and tried someone else’s shower.

    PS: Don’t push the buttons on the toilets (while sitting) in Japan either. The symbols look cute – but some have secret bidets waiting to strike.

  7. If technology were standing still you would eventually see everything migrate toward a single, standard design, but technology is leaping forward at a pace where what’s “ahead of it’s time” today is obsolete within 6 months. Just 10 or 12 years ago you couldn’t put your cell phone in your pocket without it weighning down that side of your pants, 5 years ago the big thing was having a cell phone so small you could put it in your shirt pocket and not even notice it and now we’re seeing the phones getting bigger again. Of course, back 10 or 12 years ago the phones were used for calling someone, then along came texting and camera fucntions and now they’re being used for everything from watching movies to surfing the web to paying our bills.

    If we’re going to embrace technology and all the benefits that come with it then we have to accept the side effects that come along as part of the process. The application possibilities are expanding everyday and manufacturers are all trying to find the best way to integrate it into their systems.

    The issue isn’t the variations in the equipment, it’s the process of choosing the wrong equipment for the audience it’s intended to serve. If you’re buying the most technologically advanced system then it’s your responsibility to make sure your introducing it to an audience that is in tune with that level of technology.

    There is a reason that you have a choice of 15 or 20 different cell phones with every carrier, not everyone wants or understands the most technologically advanced phones.

    It would probably be beneficial if all the various parking operations within a district or municipality utilized a similar operating system, but lets face it, trying to get all the different management entities to coordinate something like that would be like herding cats.

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