At IDEO, designers live by the mantra “fail early, fail often,” and we’ve kept true to that this week here in Ghana. After leaving four toilet prototypes with families to test for a few days, we met with the families and came across some pointed criticisms from the users. It’s these failures, early in the process, that help us understand how to improve our designs, and we were glad to hear them. Overall, though, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and gives us great hope for the future of in-home sanitation.
A few notes from our conversations:
- Haija, with whom we had met several months ago, was intrigued by our prototypes, but came away confused after a few days with them. In her 70′s, she had potentially the most to gain from in-home sanitation (no more walking to the public toilet! no more squatting!), but the complexity of the prototype we left with her and her family was overwhelming, and she suggested we simplify it dramatically to ensure it can be used and understood by children, the elderly and everyone in-between.
- Kamal, an assemblyman and an upstanding member of his community, had some complaints about the smell of one prototype and it’s location in the home, but also noted, “This is the first time I’ve sat on a toilet since grade school,” and after giving us a handful of useful suggestions, was inspired by the possibility of having a toilet in his home full-time.
- Mohammed, another friend from our previous visit, gave us some great feedback on pricing and helped us understand what value the toilets might have in the home. While some families politely told us that sanitation is a much higher priority than television or mobile phones, Mohammed pointed out that he’s already got a way to dispose of his waste (albeit not hygienic or pleasant, by his standards). So if he came upon harder times, he’d choose to pay for things that he couldn’t do on his own, like entertainment and mobile phones. Though he still placed significant value on sanitation, this was a good reminder of why it’s critical to design an aspirational service- one that provides more than basic sanitation and hygiene, but dignity, pride and satisfaction as well…
All in all, a very positive first week, failures and all. We’ve left the toilets with another group of families for the weekend, and are anxiously awaiting their feedback tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
-Danny Alexander, IDEO (@dalexdalex)