Conversations with Doors: Design in the Everyday

11 Mar 2016

We design websites, not doors. But after designing nearly 600 websites, our "design brains" can't turn off. Here, one of our UXperts, Mike Steckel, takes a look at that most ubiquitous designs: the door...

To approach a door is to begin a conversation. 

To show what I mean, I walked through our offices at Trademark Media to see what kinds of conversations I can have with our doors.

This door is telling you, “push me.” It also says, “I'm probably not occupied, but ya never know.” 

Door with handle and occupied dial
This door is saying, "Turn my handle to open me." It also says "I might be locked." 

Door with horizontal handle and key lock

This is the door to one of the conference rooms at Trademark Media. This door also speaks to you but this door is telling you a lie:

french doors with horizontal handles that suggest pulling

When you walk up to our door, this handle says to you, “You can push me or you can pull me. Either way is fine.” But in reality, you can only slide it to the right or left.

This disconnect in messaging is a sign of poor design.

Basically, the handle is telling you a lie about how to move the door. The decision to include a door that slides sideways doesn’t match the decision about the choice of handle to put on the door itself. Since people are most likely to think of doors as pulling out or pushing in, they will tend to fall back on the familiar choices that require the least amount of thought. When you choose a sliding door, you are going to have to be very careful when you pick a handle for it because “sliding” is difficult to communicate. 

This door is known as a Norman door

To find out what a Norman door is, I would highly recommend the following video. You will not look at doors in the same way again:


Mike Steckel

User Experience Director

As Senior Information Architect, Mike is an expert in user experience design and research.

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