People Interact

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

Tag Archives: everyday-usability

Everyday Usability: Card Swipers

Ever since reading Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things (there’s an updated edition, by the way), I’ve been particularly more observant of design and usability around me. A few years ago, we started the Everyday Usability series. In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed the design and usability of card swipers. Card swipers = where you swipe your credit or debit card to pay for a purchase, or a library card or copy card to pay for a photocopy, or bank/debit card to enter a bank after hours. Sometimes you have to swipe the card upside down, sometimes right side up. Why can’t we have a universal card swiper where it doesn’t matter how we swipe the card?

Everyday Usability: Outlets


I was in a meeting recently and noticed that the outlets in the room are high up on the wall, near the ceiling. I would guess since the outlets are so high up, they’re not really usable or being used. I can’t seem to figure out why the outlets would be placed so high on the wall. Thoughts?

Check out more posts in our Everyday Usability series.

Everyday Usability: Water Fountains

water_fountainOn a recent walk in the park, I came across this water fountain in Prospect Park.The water fountain has a separate area for filling your water bottle, so there’s no need to awkwardly tilt your bottle anymore to get some water.

Check out more posts in our Everyday Usability series.

Designing Streets for People

Ariel view of an intersection

According to the United Nations, for the first time ever, the majority of the world’s population lives in a city. If this is the case, cities must do their part to improve the path of their growing number of pedestrians.

Recently in GOOD, a social network for people working towards collective and social progress,  posted about an interesting project in San Francisco where they were challenged to design streets for people. The photo is a rendering of their idea in which curbs are widened at cross walks to raise the prominence of pedestrians for cars. The extended curb would also double as a location for benches and planters.

Read more about this project in her post Designing Streets for People, Not Just Cars.

On a related note, we recently noticed that the NYC Department of Transportation started WalkNYC, a standard for pedestrian way-finding. If you’re in the NYC area, you have already noticed these signs/maps in a few neighborhoods.


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.