iOS 10 Control Center has a Norman Door

Here’s how Apple could fix it

Michael McWatters
Dec 4, 2016 · 4 min read

A Norman Door is designed in such a way that you’re never sure whether you’re supposed to push or pull. Generally this is because there are pull-type handles on each side of a door that only opens one way; this results in people pulling when they need to push. It’s maddening, especially since it’s so easy to design doors that don’t have this problem: a push plate on one side, a pull handle on the other.

iOS 10 doesn’t have actual Norman Doors, obviously, but it does have a Norman Door problem. Apple apparently thought the previous Control Center pane was overloaded, so they split it into two panels: Home and Now Playing. You swipe up to reveal the Control Center, then swipe sideways between the two panels. This has created a couple usability problems:

  • The only indication that there’s another hidden panel is the carousel-style dots at the bottom of the screen; these are tiny and easy to miss, so users may not even know there’s more than one panel.
  • Once you swipe to a given panel, you have to swipe in the opposite direction to go back, and this is where the Norman Door problem arises.

Here’s how this plays out: you swipe up to reveal the Control Center’s Home panel, the default. You need the Now Playing panel, but you’re not sure where it’s hiding, so you swipe right. Wrong! That’s a dead end, but you had a 50% chance so better luck next time!

iOS 10’s version of a Norman Door

Later, you want to go back to the Home panel, but you’ve forgotten whether it’s off screen to the left or right, so you swipe left again. Wrong! Another dead end. You swipe right and you’re in the right place.

Current state: toggle between panels, but hit a dead-end after one swipe.

If you’re like me, you’re now annoyed: why must I remember where the hidden panel is? Perhaps with time I’ll memorize the pattern—Home panel on the left, Now Playing panel on the right—but that’s as borked a user experience as are Norman Doors. It puts all the burden on the user, none on the system.

My solution is to treat the two panels as an infinite alternating carousel: no matter which panel you’re on, the other panel is off-screen on either side.

Solution state: just keep swiping between alternating panels. No dead-end in sight!

No matter which way you swipe, you end up on the panel you want. Since there are only two panels in Control Center, you can’t go wrong:

Swipe on, swipe off.

My solution doesn’t solve for the first problem, i.e., that the other panel is hidden off screen, but it does solve the Norman Door problem pretty well. And it’s not a complex fix to implement—so get going, Apple! (Next, they can fix the challenge of accessing the Control Center itself in any app with scrolling content, but that’s another post.)

Some kind people have pointed out that Control Center can have up to three panels if HomeKit is enabled (I haven’t activated it yet). I think the infinite carousel is still an improvement, but would want to test that hypothesis.

Screenshot: iLounge

However, the fact that there are now up to three panels (and maybe more in the future?) in Control Center, two of which would be hidden by default, tells me Control Center needs some more UX love from Apple.

Allowing off-screen panes to “peek through” the sides might improve discoverability and affordance.

One thought would be to narrow each panel so inactive panels “peek through” on either side, thus providing greater affordance and discoverability.

Am I wrong? Is there a better solution? Am I just being overly fussy? Let me know. If you liked this, please share or recommend, and thanks for reading!

Image courtesy of MacRumors

June 29, 2017: the iOS 11 beta reveals that instead of multiple panes, the new Control Center will have multiple units in one screen. It could get cluttered, but at least the issue of off-screen items should be resolved.

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