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Over or under? The Usability of Toilet Paper

October 5, 2006, 10:05 am · Filed under: Life, New Mexico, Usability

Over or under? It’s the age-old question when it comes to orientation of toilet paper rolls. For those who suffer from option paralysis when it comes time to replace the TP, fret no more! Clearwired has uncovered the definitive Truth on the subject.

Unbeknownst to my coworkers, I conducted a little experiment recently in our bathroom. A couple of weeks ago both toilet paper rolls ran out at about the same time. I took this as an opportunity to prove, once-and-for-all, that running the toilet paper over the roll is superior to under the roll.

Clearwired TP from the user’s POV

Proof that over beats under

I replaced the two rolls of toilet paper, one in each orientation. Conscious of my personal bias, I placed my preferred method further away from the toilet on the theory that a typical person, all things being equal, will take his TP from the nearest source. (Are Clearwired employees typical people? Wait, don’t answer that…) Since then, I have been careful not to affect the results by using equal numbers of squares from each roll.

As I suspected would happen, the “over” roll has been used at a greater rate than the “under” roll. Behold the proof.

I have a theory as to why this is the case (this is where the usability part comes in). With an over roll, you can easily see where the end of the TP is. There is no ambiguity about where to grab hold. With under rolls, you’re lucky to see a little corner of the last square. Usually, you have to bend down, grope around, or spin the roll to find the last square.

There you have it, proof that over is superior to under. But don’t take my word for it. According to the research, 68% of the population prefers over. I rest my case.

This entry was first published on The Loop, the blog of my former employer, Clearwired Web Services.