OK, let’s start with the embarrassing story and move, quite quickly, from there.
A little while ago I was at a restaurant of a nicer quality that had somewhat dimmer lighting in it. I could blame this but I don’t think any real blame is necessary. I’m dilly dallying. As I was walking up the stairs to leave the eatery, I spotted the bathrooms out of the corner of my eye, made the polite hand sign for ‘excuse me a minute, I need to use the bathroom’ and then proceeded to enter the wrong bathroom. In payment for some unused karma, the bathroom was empty. I was fairly sure when I was in it that I had made a mistake due to the differences that exist between the two constructs namely urinals. Upon leaving, I did double check and sure enough, I had used the wrong bathroom. As a weird side note, have you ever been to one of those restaurants that has weird pictograms or foreign words to signify which bathroom is which? Those are horrible. In this case though, it was just me not paying enough attention and my eyes not getting enough information.
At the end though, no one knows but me (and you) and we can segue into standardization. This topic comes up with a certain frequency in the UX groups I follow, a week before each of the seasonal solstices. That time frame was made up. If we should standardize things, make some items fixed. To be fair, there are standards for a lot of things but I am talking more about feel here. I just saw a wonderful discussion where people were debating the merits between OK – Cancel or Cancel – OK on button placement. Is there a correct choice? Some of salient points revolved around culture of the users, how we process location visually, and effects of the button (colors and such).
It ignored an area I thought should have been mentioned: the feel and tone or theme of the website/app in question. I know there are sites that drive me crazy with placement and some that work and it has nothing to do with A or B as the order. Even going forward, all the major mobile OS have design guidelines to follow which dictate some of the standards a designer should follow. These don’t tend to match completely which isn’t a deal in my world, as the OSes have different goals and philosophies behind them.
But I’m drifting a little here. Should we standardize designs? Is this something users would like? Like, every one is the same. I have no idea what people would say to that.
I’ve spent 30 minutes thinking about everything I know and I don’t know the answer to this. I need to ask some users.
In the meantime, if we standardized which side the bathroom is on I wouldn’t have had this story to tell and I wouldn’t be as aware of the issues with this question. I’ll leave this image as well.
This is a recreation of an image I saw on the internet.