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Problem Statement:

How might I work with businesses and local government to provide information and access

to restrooms free of charge?

Happy Cheeks App Preview
The Project: 

There is little information easily obtainable by the general public about restroom availability and

people would benefit from being able to quickly locate restrooms based on their needs and preferences. Further, there is no way that businesses and governments can quickly and easily provide data to the public about the availability and obtain feedback from the public about their experience.

I set out to solve these issues using UX methodologies. Since I was trying to solve an issue for individuals on the go, I decided a mobile app would be the best solution fairly early in the discovery process and I created a timeline for completing the design over the course of 8 weeks.

The Timeline: 

I researched, conducted a design sprint, created a prototype,

and administered user tests to corroborate my problem statement.

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Research Approach

89% of people say

that a dirty restroom has a negative effect on customer satisfaction.

89% of people say

that a dirty restroom has a negative effect on customer satisfaction.

Desk Research 

First I wanted to find out what studies show that people need and want from public restrooms, as well as how I can support businesses through this initiative. Through this, I learned about the Happy Toilets program. In Santa Fe, NM the chamber of commerce started a program, where business owners were able to opt into a government-provided stipend that they could use toward maintenance and supplies in exchange for free restroom access for the public. This program really got me thinking about how I could potentially incentivize businesses to open their restrooms up for free but I needed to do some additional research before pursuing the idea.

Research Approach

Competitive Analysis

Next, I needed to see how other companies were attempting to solve this complex issue. What were the ways they relayed information to their users and what did the users say about their experience? I ended up looking at three companies and evaluating them based on their user reviews as well as the features they offered.

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Flush is an app that provides users with locations and directions to restrooms in their area. It has decent customer reviews and worldwide availability. However, the app relies on user-generated data and because of this, it has flaws in information. 

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GoHere is an app funded by the Canadian government that partners with businesses to provide restrooms, but only for individuals with colitis and Crohn’s disease and requires a medical card from users to utilize it.

Google Maps App Preview
Google Maps

Google Maps is the #1 navigation tool on the market. Google Maps allows users to search for restrooms near them and they can filter by top rated and open now, but there’s no way to know if there’s maintenance happening or if the restroom is ADA compliant or even clean.  

Research Approach


After conducting my initial research to validate this idea, I jumped into user research. I needed to discover who the ideal users of this app would be. Who benefits the most from this idea and how can I make sure it's a truly valuable product? I created two surveys, one for the public and one for business owners to gather more info. 

Business Survey Insights


64% were located 
in a city or downtown


56% offered restrooms to the public, no purchase necessary 


52% indicated providing restrooms to customers was a top priority for them.

Public Survey Insights


63% Would only search for businesses where they knew they had access to a free restroom. 


90% Said proximity was the most important aspect of selecting a restroom


92% Use Google Maps
or Google search to locate restrooms

Research Approach


In order to get a complete understanding of where my users were coming from, I had to dig deeper with individual interviews. I interviewed 3 public users and 3 business users as well as  1 subject matter expert at the municipal level. After each interview, I made notes of the opportunities that were presented by the participants. These opportunities were problems the participants had and areas where I could craft a solution.


Public Users

With my public users, I wanted to know what they were looking for in a restroom and how they went about locating one when they weren’t sure where to go. One of my biggest takeaways was that people want free restrooms and they have an idea in their mind already of where those are located and they will consistently choose those businesses because they don’t want to roll the dice on a smaller business or have to ask to use the restroom.


Business Users

With my Business users, I wanted to know what they struggled to provide with restrooms. All three mentioned that maintenance and supplies were an issue. I pitched the “happy toilets” idea to them, wherein they get a stipend from the local government to see if that would be enough incentive to open their restrooms up. I had a mixed response to this idea. Two of the businesses said they would participate in something like this and one said there wasn’t any way they would open their bathroom up.

Subject Matter Expert

In my SME interview, I spoke with an individual who works for the age strong commission in Boston. They work with businesses to provide better inclusive spaces for the elderly community. During this interview I talked about the Happy toilets program idea, I wanted to understand if we gave businesses a stipend for their restrooms then would the government would work with a third party to provide services? I got a very positive response from them on all accounts. As long as businesses were interested in participating then there was no reason the government wouldn’t be interested in providing that stipend.

Research Approach

Identifying The User 

After my user research was complete I was able to define who my target audience was for this app. I designed personas to represent them and to keep as a touchstone throughout the design process. For my business personas, I have the franchise business owner who already provides free restrooms and would like a way to connect with customers to see their feedback, as well as the small shop owner who wants a way to attract customers and provide incentives to make purchases. For my public users, I have the local who wants a reliable list of businesses she can go to when in the city, and the tourist who wants an easy way to find a restroom in an area they’re unfamiliar with.

Defining the Solution

The Design Process

Using the feedback I got from the user identified the features that would be most beneficial for my app. Since I had a limited amount of time to build my prototype I kept the scope small. For businesses the top three things I could provide for them, on top of the tax stipend in partnership with local governments, was the ability to create offers to entice customers, the ability to view feedback, and the ability to maintain a profile where they could keep customers informed of restroom status For my public users, they have the ability to set preferences about what type of restroom they want, the ability to give feedback to businesses, and finally, the ability to automatically locate the restroom nearest to them that meets their needs. Using these features I began to design the solution.

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Sprint Map
Ideation & Sketching

In order to identify the user's journey and how my two users would interact with each other, I designed a map to showcase the steps of the process. This was the guide that helped me throughout the sketching and wireframing process.

I sketched out ideas for what the features could look like. My number

one goal was simplicity since my public users mentioned that they wanted an easy experience locating a restroom.

Once I had the initial idea sketched

out I created wireframes that helped

me further solidify my approach to a

high-fidelity prototype.

Defining the Solution

The Prototypes

Using my wireframes I created my high-fidelity prototypes in Figma.

One for the public user and one for the business user.

Public Prototype
Business Prototype

Validating the Solution

Usability Testing

My last step was conducting some user tests. I only had time to test each prototype one time but I had some interesting insights already.

Public Prototype Feedback
Business Prototype Feedback

For my public user test, I got a lot of positive feedback about liking how one moves about the app, but there were suggested improvements on how the business showcases information about their restroom, and suggestions about additional resources the app could inform the public about such as the availability of pad and tampon dispensaries. 

For the business user test, I also

got positive feedback, they said that the app was intuitive to use but they also had suggestions on how to improve how information is dispersed to customers on the business profile, for example, they called out that there wasn't a way to designate that their business was closed on a certain

day of the week.

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Reflection + Next Steps

8 weeks is a short amount of time to complete the necessary work to validate a difficult topic like this. I definitely had moments of uncertainty about whether businesses would find my idea valuable and I think if this app were truly going to be created it would need additional research to ensure it is a viable option. A part of the difficulty in validating this idea is that it requires a cultural shift. Access to restrooms should be a basic human right, yet we place a monetary value on it. This app is my way of addressing the divide that currently exists in our society in the hope to shift perceptions. The next steps for this app include additional research to validate. One person in one of my interviews suggested reaching out to non-profits to see if there was a way for that type of company to support this initiative. After my user tests, I see the opportunity to improve UI and give more options and control to my users and finally, I think doing additional user tests to see what other individuals think of the app is very important.

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