A few years ago, at the place I worked at back then, there were several doors into the office. I usually went through the “front door”, the door we expected visitors to use.
As I went in, the front door had a handle on the side facing me. More often than not I grabbed the handle and pulled.
The door refused to open.
I pulled again.
The door refused to open — because the door needed to be pushed.
Despite regularly using the door, I did this, I still did this, the door did this.
I saw the handle, I pulled it.
The door didn’t open towards me.
I’d remember I needed to push the door.
(Maybe I kept doing it in the hope one day I’d pull and it would open towards me.)
I wasn’t alone.
I’d be sat at my desk.
I’d glance up. It’s one of my colleagues, staring at the handle, like they were stuck in an airlock.
A look up. It’s one of our clients staring into the studio like we’d invited them over just to lock them out.
I raised could we remove the handle, put a flat hand pad in its place to give some visible indication to the door user they should push — not grab the handle and pull.
No, was the answer. The landlord wouldn’t allow it.
I put a sign up on the door saying “PUSH THIS DOOR, DON’T PULL THE HANDLE.”
The sign lasted a day. It gave the wrong impression.
Can’t we get the handle replaced?
No was the answer. The landlord wouldn’t allow it.
Let’s put a sign up? No…
And there we exited the loop.
And the THUNKs continued.
THUNK. THUNK. THUNK.
Looking back it wasn’t necessarily the THUNK, the sound, that was annoying. It was what the THUNK represented. Here was our front door - the front door to our own office - THUNKing away because we couldn’t change the handle or put a sign up - or change people’s preconception of what that door handle means to them. (Bloody people and their expectancy of behaviour!) We sold ourselves as a business that understood people, and here’s our front door tripping that up before you’d even come through the front door.
“At least you’ve a reminder of what bad design is at the start of your day,” quipped a colleague. Everything’s upwards from there, hey!
I’d rather not notice good design - things that work with minimum or no intrusion to my behaviour - than be abruptly aware of bad design. If something is going to challenge the norm, I want to be delighted, not frustrated, impeded, pissed off even. Especially at how I enter something, especially at the start of something.
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