People Interact

Blog about people-centered design by Lisa Chow and Sandra Sajonas.

Everyday Usability: Doors

In a recent talk with teen technology volunteers, I talked about usability, how usability is all around with us (part of the inspiration behind our Everyday Usability series), and made a point in sharing my favorite usability example:  doors.

We see them, use them, go through them, everyday. We don’t really think about doors unless they don’t work (they go against our mental models of how doors work).

Horizontal bar means push. Vertical bar means pull. Doorknob means turn. These are all cues, also called affordances, which tells you what to do with the door. When the cues or affordances are incorrect, opening or closing a door can be confusing and frustrating.

Here are some pictures of doors that I came across recently.

Non-automatic door with "caution: automatic" signage.

Non-automatic door with “caution: automatic door” yellow signage. Door is button-activated as indicated by a hand-written sign “press button”, which was probably put up by a volunteer who noticed that many people had trouble with the door. On many occasions, I’ve seen people stand there waiting for the door to open since it says “caution: automatic door”. I understand that they put “caution: automatic door” because someone may push the button and the door opens, potentially hitting someone else, but saying that the door is automatic is not only incorrect, it’s confusing as well.

Push to operate door. Caution: door opens outward.

This door has a button to the side that says “Press to operate door”. I wonder how many people see the button off to the side (similar to the door picture above). The door says “Caution: Door opens outward” to let people know so hopefully they will stand back and won’t get hit by the door.

Push or pull?

How do you open this door? Push or pull? There is a horizontal bar and a vertical bar on the door.

Door comes with instructions

A door that comes with instructions: “To open door, press doorknob hard.”

Have you come across any memorable doors? Send us your door pictures and stories and we’ll share them on the blog.

Check out more posts in our Everyday Usability series.


4 responses to “Everyday Usability: Doors

  1. Louis Muñoz July 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Just thinking: In NYC, subway doors open automatically. In some European cities, however, one must open the door him/herself, and sometimes, it’s not so easy for someone not from that city to know how to open the door. Opening a door is probably “easy” and second-nature to the natives, but not so apparent to those visiting that city.

  2. B. E. Berger July 16, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Whenever I leave my favorite Portland, Oregon chocolate shop, I’m confounded by the door; it sports an elegant vertical handle that requires pushing! Not once have I remembered to push rather than pull!

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