In surveys of American consumers and of bath and kitchen specialists, 60–70% of respondents prefer over.

What are the primary experience factors that lead a majority of users to choose over?

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a discussion stated in the "question". UX.SE doesn't allow discussions or opinion based questions. Edit the question to fit the form of the community. See the help section at the top of the page. Nov 21, 2013 at 21:10
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    In all honesty, this isn't an opinion based question. It is searching for an objective answer to an everyday problem in the context of user experience. If you consider it subjective, then looking at the help section, this question has almsot all the characteristics of a "great subjective question". blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective
    – kwahn
    Nov 22, 2013 at 2:30
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    I think this is quite a nice question about physical ergonomics. The 'Over Setting' of the control somehow feels right to me as well - so the question is "why is this the preferred orientation of the control ?". It may have something to do with our general perception of 'standards' for physical controls - ie to make something move 'up' you push the associated control 'up'.
    – PhillipW
    Nov 22, 2013 at 13:09
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    @JonW given the most recent edit I don't see how it is too broad. "Which usability factors bring better user experience of the "over" choice?" is perfectly answerable, as you can see by Alexey and mc01's answers.
    – DasBeasto
    Sep 3, 2015 at 12:34
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    @JonW - There is no precise the solution to any design problem. There are always multiple options for discussion. If that weren't the case every thread would have a single "correct" answer and everything ever designed by man would eventually converge on the same "correct" result. That doesn't happen, because UX questions are all inherently imprecise & subjective. This is built right into the name - "experience." The entire field revolves around analyzing & responding to subjective opinions.
    – mc01
    Sep 4, 2015 at 0:38

3 Answers 3


Soviet ergonomic school has proof for my theses. I mean the toilet paper issue was not the main point of the field. Partly because the toilet paper itself was a scarce product, as I remember from those times. I'm not joking.
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    Another point to add in regards to "More far from the wall" is keeping both the wall and people's hands cleaner Sep 2, 2015 at 22:31
  • *Further from the wall
    – Dave Haigh
    Sep 3, 2015 at 16:35

The original patent application from 1891 clearly shows "over" as the preferred orientation: 1891 toilet paper patent images


  • fewer sheets used (less waste)
  • easier to find the starting point
  • tears effectively with a single hand, whereas "under" requires 2 hands or else you unravel even more paper and have to put your cell phone away (eew).
  • it's closer and requires no contact with a potentially filthy wall.
  • "Over" also helps to prevent the extremely likely & ever-present danger of being attacked by a spider hanging out on the back of the roll:

There IS a spider on your toilet paper!

HOWEVER! These benefits apply primarily to People Without Cats.

The "over" orientation is notoriously inconvenient for cat owners, because it allows for easy & continuous unraveling with a single "thwap".

cat unrolls toilet paper

Most feline users also prefer the "over" for this highly entertaining reason, though some have learned to use it more properly than most: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2597369/Hilarious-video-shows-cat-unraveling-entire-roll-toilet-paper-dutifully-rolling-again.html

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    I wonder if the inventor actually used one square at a time...
    – TylerH
    Sep 3, 2015 at 5:34
  • That cat does make the paper more fluffy and airy. Doesn't everyone want that? (According to the commercials) Sep 3, 2015 at 6:44
  • I don't see how the patent info actually backs up most of the claims made in the bullet points. In fact, the patent (and most advantages) are actually referring to the fact that the toilet paper is perforated not that it's hanging in a specific direction.
    – DA01
    Sep 8, 2015 at 17:06
  • @DA01 The patent is just confirmation of the right direction. The most important piece of evidence here is obviously the spider exhibit. Sep 8, 2015 at 17:49

In addition to the great reasons that Alexey provides, the ability for users to see where the current piece to take is helps as well. If a dispenser uses the "under" orientation, that piece may be facing the wall which makes it impossible for people to visually tell which way they should turn it (if it's not hanging down), causing an extra turn sometimes.

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