Making Norman Doors Obsolete

As I was waiting for my friend at the Madman Espresso in the Garment District, I couldn’t help but notice the number of wrong interactions with the coffee shop’s entryway. An estimation of 1 outta 4 people opened it incorrectly, receiving the appropriate feeling of idiocy. Finally, mi compadre came to the door and got it right the first time; however, she incorrectly interacted with the door upon exiting even though she regularly visits this location. As a regular, the door’s poor user interaction design still trips veterans with its confusing visual cues of whether one should pull it, push it, or bop it.

Why is that one of humanity’s simplest design is still inherently flawed? Even with visible indications like the push-pull sticker, you will still see people operating the wrong way, especially if the handle for the door is not identifiable as to to push or pull. Last year, Vox sought out renowned human centric psychologist (he has many titles and this was the most descriptive one) Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things.

Same video that others have used in their post, like here and here.

Sadly, bad doors still plague our community. When I’m in a rush, I would ignore the sign and go with my instinct, which may lead to an embarrassing moment. I occasionally find doors that get it right, like the one at Sweetgreen near NYU. Just as Mr. Norman described it, an optimal door would be one with the handle on one side and a steel plate the other (or nothing in this case). With no handle on the push side, the user has no choice but to thrust the door open.

Thank you, Sweetgreen!

The biggest con I see would be the potential increase of fingerprints and handprints on glass entrances as the user is able to push it anywhere to open it. This could lead to employees needing to clean a door more frequently, so a preemptive solution could be a handprint sticker to indicate where customers should place their palm. Something like the photo below could be a potential solution for reducing prints.

Ignore the terrible photoshop.

Perhaps architects could take a few courses in human centric design to discover better solutions than the one proposed. Just like standardizing exit signs, we should push for a reinvented design of the door. If done, I won’t feel dumb whenever I make a grand entrance/exit.


If you have any better ideas, I would love to hear them!

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