Have you ever tried pushing or pulling a hinged door only to find it operated the other way? You are not alone - poorly designed doors are everywhere!
Don Norman wrote a seminal book The Design of Everyday Things in which he explored the importance of discoverability and feedback in the design of doors (among many other things we interact with daily). Discoverability refers to a person’s ability to find out what operations are possible. Feedback refers to a signal that something has happened after a person’s interaction with an object. Norman’s book has been quite influential and now the term Norman Door refers to the kind of door we don’t know how to operate when we approach it.
There’s a number of things we can do to make for good door design:
An obvious handle on a hinged or pivot door indicates which side (left or right) to operate. The AWS Icon range is a great place to start.
A flat plate suggests a push action. A ‘D’ pull suggests a pull action. A lever handle or knob suggests turning but indicates nothing about push or pull.
A ‘push’ or ‘pull’ sign is an intentional signifier of what action to take. However Norman suggests that if a door, which should be a simple device to operate, needs a sign then it is a design failure. We have all seen ugly paper signs sticky-taped to beautiful, big glass doors to tell people how to operate them. Perhaps this is better than being stuck in front of a door, looking silly, trying to work out how to open it.
There are also more subtle factors that make it less obvious how to operate a door. These can include cultural conventions. Imagine walking into a shopping centre or large office building and finding that the large glass entry doors were not automatic – you’d walk straight into them!
Doors come in an array of configurations: pivot, hinged, button operated, automatic, card activated etc. Good design means making a door’s operation clear to the people who will operate it. Let’s create a world where ugly stick-taped signs are no longer needed.
Check out AWS’s extensive range of commercial hinged and pivot doors here
There’s also a great video on YouTube about this topic which includes an interview with Don Norman himself watch