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Norman Doors & Human‑Centered Design

Norman Doors

When you get a door wrong, that is, push when you should have pulled (or vice versa), is it your fault? Maybe, but probably not. And definitely not if other people have the same issue. That’s a clear-cut sign of a bad and ineffective design. And there’s a term for these doors. They‘re called Norman Doors. Don Norman is the Norman of Norman doors. And he is the author of The Design of Everyday Things. In it, Don explores why an item, such as a door, is made the way it is.

In his book, Don Norman argues that there are two key design principles at play here – discoverability and feedback. Discoverability refers to the process of learning what an object can do. Feedback, on the other hand, refers to the reaction of the object when an outside force is applied. These two fundamental principles are included in what designers call human-centered design. And they don’t only apply to doors, but the design of everything. For human-centered design to be leveraged to it’s fullest extent, individual designers must employ empathy for the end user. This involves putting yourself in the mind of the end user and understanding his/her wants and needs.

Vox put together a humorous video explaining Norman doors and even spoke to the man himself.

Human-centered Design 

The leap from interacting with doors to interacting with websites isn’t a far leap. People use each every day. And many people have trouble traversing each. And with good reason. Sometimes the user hasn’t been considered in the design process. There are times the designer will simply create the environment he/she believes to be correct. And never test it.

Today, designers need to understand the responsibility entrusted to them and their work. Each designer needs to design, test, and retest. One shouldn’t design an item as they see fit, but rather the way the human interacts with it. The power of the designer lies in understanding how the two are different.

And remember the next time you pull when you should have pushed that door open, it’s not your fault. It’s just bad design.