Tag Archives: Human Factors

RTFM – How to Open a Door

Read the Fucking Manual: the sure sign of a bad user experience. Well now, the door has gotten even worse. Because no one read the instructions, people kept pushing on the door with their sleeves or with gloves. Consequently, one of the doors is broken, so they added another page stating to use the other door.

Now a simple door has three pages of text instructions and a “Push to Exit” sign on each door. On the bright side, the pages are now typed, so it’s classy πŸ˜‰

So let’s redesign and eliminate the need for English:

The push bar – As I wrote last time, make the temperature sensitive control into either a physical control or a touch-sensitive control. Say goodbye to the no glove rule.

Push to Exit – The glass is clear, so I know it’s an exit. The “to exit” part can go. And “push” is intuitive for a horizontal bar, so the whole thing can go.

Broken door – Sometimes stuff breaks. We want to direct people to the other door. A couple big X’s on the door should stop them from using it. And an arrow on the door would redirect them. No words needed. If we wanted to add a simple note to residents, something like this should suffice: “Broken. Will on fixed on…”. Anything more is just annoying.

A great sketch to go out on a happy note:

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Doors that need instructions – A new twist on a classic human factors problem

Doors are probably the most quintessential human factors design problem. Donald Norman notably discussed the issue in The Design of Everyday Things. Stand in the lobby of many buildings and watch countless people screw it up. Push or pull? Push on the left or the right? And I won’t even get into the carnage that happens at a revolving door (in Soviet Russia, door pushes you).

The solution is simply to provide an affordance for the correct action.

  • Vertical bar – pull
  • Horizontal bar or flat surface – push
  • Nob or handle – grab and twist
  • Bar or handle location – door opens to the left or right

Β Β Β Β 

On to the purpose of this post… a new variant of this classic problem. My apartment building’s doors seem to be well designed (security keypad & vertical handle on the pull side, horizontal bar on the push side). Pushing the bar from the inside automatically unlocks the door. All seems well. However, they recently started getting stuck from the push side. A couple of hard shoves were needed to open them. Sometimes, they wouldn’t open at all. I assumed the door was just jammed until the building manager posted a sign on the doors.

Β Β Β Β “Important. Please Use your hand (without gloves) to open doors easily. It uses your energy from your hand to unlock them. Thank you, Mgmt”

I’ve seen plenty of doors that copout with the words ‘push’ or ‘pull’ on them, but these doors actually require a page of instructions. What next? Forks that come with a pamphlet? Apparently, the makers of these doors never took cold weather into account. These doors actually don’t work if you wear gloves!

The solution is incredibly simple. Just make the bar pressure sensitive instead of temperature based. A simple depressible bar (like those in most security doors) would work fine. Pushing the bar unlocks the door, and continuing to push opens the door. It’s so incredibly simple, and it’s actually the common solution!

If the manufacturer had simply tried using the doors in temperatures under 40oF, this problem would have been easily caught. Instead, they replaced common sense use case testing with technology.

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