This door is the epitome of UX design… because it’s hard to get it right the first time.

Original door proposed by Kelly Jepsen as the epitome of UX design.

Kelly Jepsen suggests this door is the epitome of user experience design, and he offers sound reasoning for his argument. More importantly, he briefly describes why some software companies (or their clients I may add) “would never build this door” despite its clarity and utility.

My remarks shouldn’t detract from his; rather, I hope my remarks shed some light on why user experience design is a difficult thing to execute well, especially the first time.

The design of an everyday thing.

When I first saw Kelly’s door, it immediately reminded me of a door I encountered in London years ago:

The handle suggests ‘pull’ while the label states ‘push’.

The handle suggests ‘pull’ while the label states ‘push’. Brain could not compute for a moment when I encountered this door.

Similarly, the door proposed by Kelly as exemplary of UX design has a plate which suggests ‘push’ but also exterior hinges which suggest the door swings towards you.¹ Or put another way, the hinges suggest ‘pull’. Brain could not compute for a moment when I first saw the door.

Exterior hinges suggest the door swings outward.

Consider this gallery of Swiss doors I photographed years ago. Coincidentally, I captured these doors during the same trip to Europe as the wonky door I stumbled on in London.

Only one of these doors, pictured here, contains exterior hinges. Clearly the door swings outward or toward you (‘pull’).

Hinges are hidden on the other doors, all of which swing inward or away from you (‘push’).

Iteration is the key.

If I were to modify Kelly’s door, or in UX terms iterate its design, I would propose the following door:

Original door modified to remove the exterior hinges.

With the exterior hinges removed, my brain — which is accustomed to encountering other doors of similar design — quickly analyzes the overall design of the door and more clearly thinks ‘push’.

This is why user experience design is often extremely difficult to “get it right” the first time. Every creator, and every user of that creator’s work, adds a littany of experiential baggage to the equation. Culture, intuition, previous experience, personal preferences, physical limitations, and so on. No user experience will ever cater perfectly to every user, and sometimes not even close with the first attempt.

In the end, throwing something on the wall, putting a functional prototype in front of testers, or deploying a live version in the wild… all of these are the only way to verify that a design works the way it’s intended to — or expected to.

What must follow, then, is iteration to get it right. And in my experience, that’s the epitome of successful user experience design.

¹ I recognize that the original door is possibly a door which swings both ways, but that’s another argument for another day.

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