Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

The Curse of the Norman Door

When leaving a building, most doors push out. This makes a lot of sense since most people are leaving retail businesses with their arms full of parcels and packages, coffee and croissants, take out and tea, bits and bobs.

This means that when entering a building intuition would have you pull. Sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes there’s a push sign. Or a pull sign. Sometimes door hardware helps you know the difference. Sometimes the door looks the same on both sides, leaving you guessing.

A poorly design door is called a “Norman Door”, because of a book by Don Norman about human-centered design. These unintuitive doors are everywhere. All over the world. When we lived in Mongolia, it was necessary to learn the words for “push” and “pull” early in the language learning process.

Because of doors.

Why do we need instructions on how to use a door?

I pulled on a “Norman Door” the other day. It didn’t open. There was that moment of bewilderment (this door should have opened and it didn’t. Why?), followed by the sheepish realization I should push, making me feel foolish.

Doors should never cause that much stress. Doors should just work and we never think about them.

There are two things to learn from Norman Doors.

1. Sometimes it’s helpful to think well about what is unintuitive.

2. It doesn’t have to be this way.

It's possible (and not that hard) to design a better door.