Norman Doors - To Push or To Pull?

Norman Doors - To Push or To Pull?

Doors are a portal, it allows us to access to buildings and also allows escape! But how many times have you tried to push a door that is meant to be pulled or vice-versa? Sometimes there is a sticker that says, "Push", and yet you pull. If you feel embarrassed or stupid, worry not my friend, it is not your fault alone, it is a design flaw.

Donald Arthur Norman is an American researcher, professor, and author. Norman is the director of The Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego. He is best known for his books on design, especially The Design of Everyday Things. Wikipedia

Doors can get even more complicated if you throw in revolving doors, clear glass doors, with no touchpoints. A door is said to be a Norman door if it is not intuitive or self-explanatory. Let us now see how we can fix it.

The push side

If one side of the door is smooth without and handles or knobs, there is only one thing you can do with it. So not attaching anything to this side of the door is one option. But what if someone starts pushing close to the hinge? To deal with this, we need to give a visual clue as to which end of the door should be pushed - maybe in the form of a metal plate.


The pull side

One of the most common things that we spot on a door is a handle. While it is easy to pull, it still allows pushing. The doors of cars are meant for pulling from the outside, but that design will not fit a big door. So, let us get back to handle. Adding a label will make things better, but not by much. We can design the pull handle in a way that makes push much easier than a pull. One such example is shown below:

image.png Do you have any more ideas to make the pull side better?

Emergency door

Most emergency doors avoid confusion by not having a handle. There is a bar that affords to push. There are often instructions added, but during times of crisis, time is of the essence, and having a good design is priceless. image.png

Watch your steps

While you wander around in this wide wild world, beware of such catastrophic designs!


All this to say, good designs matter, not just in the software domain, but in the world out there in general. Next time you are designing something, and focusing on how to make it fancy, bear in mind, it needs to be usable and enjoyable. Design for the intended users!

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