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Pull Handles on Push Doors

WRITTEN by: Bill Sterzenbach |
categories: Interactive

Nov 2009


A crazy thing happened to me last week. I was giving one our our associates a 20 minute diatribe on usability, mentioning that people don't need options, they need clear, simple objectives on pages and on and on. At the end of my brilliant monologue, I needed to take a bathroom break (the same coffee that inspired my brilliance inspired the need to break). As I approached the bathroom door, I noticed a guy going in before me. He approached the door and pulled on the handle - but it's a push door.

The problem was that they put a 'universal' handle on the door, and this confused the man. It's not that the guy was stupid, it's just that he didn't want to take the time to figure out the door - he assumed the interface would make it clear as to what was expected of him.

This is what I was explaining to my work associate - I was telling him that you must police the development of systems to obey Einsteins basic rule:

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

This seems like a cute and clever saying, but it truly has great meaning. The application to webpage design is critical because it's so easy to try and be everything to everybody. Many clients want lots of shortcuts, lots of options and many many features. This is a noble goal, but the problem is many users will be confused by too many options. Equally dangerous is the desire to make an interface ridiculously simple, thus shutting out savvy users who would be insulted by an overly simplified interface.

Einstein had it right, and little has emerged to refute this.

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