Have you ever been confused by a door? Push or pull? Which side opens? Is it locked? It’s not your fault! The designer screwed up.
If you’re running a shopping mall or a store or an office, you need customers to come into your building. Unless it has a drive-through or a take-out window, that’s a necessary requirement for business. It’s amazing how often a poor customer experience starts right here. Designers have no excuses. It’s not like doors are new technology. Everybody’s seen and used lots. There must be some best practices guide out there somewhere.
Nobody likes being embarrassed, but it’s hard to look good when you’re colliding with a door that swings opposite to what you were expecting. Do you not tense up when approaching a bank of doors in a large building? Many of us have even developed coping mechanisms just for this situation. I employ logic: look for the hinges and try to devise how the door operates. One of my friends aims between two doors, simultaneously pulling on one and pushing the other. Others hesitate to observe and then imitate the successful users.
Somebody did invent a hinge that will let a door open in either direction, whether pushed or pulled. How come we don’t see more of those?
Ever walk up to a set of double doors and one of them is locked? This happens to me so often that I have begun to suspect there is a law requiring it. I went to a convention centre to shop at a craft fair. It was a big place and the small fair was only at one end, so most of the doors were locked. It took a while to hunt down, by process of elimination, the unlocked doors. Some of the doors that I expected to be locked were open, so perhaps the facility operators were also confused. Of course, upon leaving, the problem presented itself anew, as some types of door can allow exit even when they are locked from the outside, but not all. Which type where these and were they completely bolted or just locked to the outside? I think designers could build in visual clues to let us know when a door is locked.
In Calgary, the Plus 15 network contains many automatic doors that use a sensor to detect you and open. That sounds good in theory, but not all applications are satisfactory. The sensors are not always located in the same place and the timing is different for many doors. You can never be sure if the door has detected you and will open in time, or if you need to take evasive action. Sometimes the system is broken, has been turned off (in which case the door may still open manually), or the door has been locked. This can result in a very convincing Maxwell Smart impression as you bang your nose on the door. To avoid this, I have developed a technique where I lean forward as I drag my back toes, like a wide receiver making a catch along the sideline. I can then wait for slow doors without breaking stride or stop for closed ones without breaking my nose.
We all like to laugh at people that push on doors with “Pull” written on them, but we’ve all done it. Obviously we are expecting a door to be intuitive and don’t want to read instructions to make it work. We’re all experienced users, so when a door doesn’t work like you expect it to, there’s something wrong with the design, not you.