How hard is it to design a door?

2024-01-07 00:00:00 / episode: 356


Have you ever tried to open the door the wrong way?

I'll bet you had that experience on more than one occasion.

you can't figure out if you have to push it or pull it.

these types of doors are badly designed.

in fact if you have to stop and think about

how to open the door it's probably badly designed.

Hi and welcome to the Les Perras podcast episode 356 for your extensive English listening


this episode is about bad door design.

Good Design

I talk about good design here I don't mean pretty.

I don't mean fashion design and I don't mean balance of colors and textures.

I mean designing something so that it is easy to use.

that means not only is it easy to use

but it's also difficult to make a mistake with.

good design has two basic principles:

it's visible and it gives feedback.


visible means that when I look at it I know how to use it. it's not hidden.

if the way that you use something is somehow hidden inside it,

then it becomes difficult to use

and we would say the proper use is invisible or hidden.

if a door has a door handle on it, here I mean like a doorknob.

I look at it and I know that I can turn the door knob

and probably open the door.


the next principal feedback means that if I do something wrong

I get meaningful information out of this error

so I can do it again correctly the next time.

if there's a handle on the door and

I pull the handle and

the door doesn't open I'm getting feedback

that what I did didn't work and

I have to change my action in order to open the door.

feedback can be a sound,

like a light switch going click

or a teapot going please when the water is boiling.

Bad Design

Bad design means that either I can't figure out

how to use it just by looking at it,

or if I use it wrong I get zero feedback and

I don't know how to change my action to make it work properly.

there are many doors out there that

have a handle on them, and

people reach out grab the handle and

pull to open the door.

if the door is well designed pulling will open the door.

if the door is badly designed pulling will not open the door,

these doors are not hopeless because

as the door did not open you get some feedback.

at this point you can try and

push the door to open it .

if the door opens

with a push then it's not really really bad.

I saw a photo once of a door that had no handles on it and

no place to push and no sensors around it.

I didn't see the door in real life so

I can't say how to open it but

I think most other people who approached the

doors didn't know how to open it either.

the doors might have been beautiful but they were badly designed.

Norman Doors

The guy who brought bad door designed to our attention was Don Norman.

As a result badly design doors are named after him.

they are called Norman doors.

but in a more general sense anything that is badly designed and

you don't know how to use it is a Norman door.

a lot of objects which people look at and

say it's beautiful are actually badly designed.

That’s the problem with the word design.

people tend to think if it's beautiful it has nice design.

this confuses the meaning of the word design.

my preference is to think of good designers the same as Mr. Norman… it is intuitive and

easy to use and gives clear feedback if you use it wrong.

Look out for Norman doors in your daily life.