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It's not you. Bad doors are everywhere.

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There’s this door on the 10th floor I just hate so much. Goddammit! Do you ever get this door wrong? “pretty regularly.” How often? “like 30% of the time.” Have you seen people misuse it? All the time. Every day. Constantly. I hate this door. Me too Kelsey. But here’s the thing: as soon as you start looking for confusing doors. They. Are. EVERYWHERE. Why? I feel like Roman Mars would know why. Roman: This is 99% invisible, and those doors you hate are called Norman doors. What’s a norman door? Roman: Don Norman wrote THE essential book about design. He is the ‘Norman’ of the ‘norman door.’ Alright – and where is this guy? Roman: ”You Must Go to San Diego” Okay! Don: Hi joe! I’m Don Norman. I’m… gee it’s hard to describe what i am. Roman: Well, he’s been a Professor of psychology, professor of cognitive science, professor of computer science, a vice president of advanced technology at apple. But for our purposes Don: I was spending a year living in Cambridge, England, and I got so frustrated with my inability to use the light switches and the water taps and the doors even, that I wrote this book. If I continually get a door wrong, is it my fault? Don: No. Roman: A norman door is one where the design tells you to do the opposite of what you’re actually supposed to do, or gives the wrong signal and needs a sign to correct it. Don: Why is such a simple thing, why does it need an instruction manual? That is, why do you have to have a sign that says Push or Pull. Why not make it obvious? Roman: It can be obvious if it’s designed right. Don: There are a couple really basic principles of design, and one of them i’ll call discoverability. When I look at something, i should be able to discover what operations i can do. Roman: The principle applies to a whole lot more than doors. Don: "And it’s amazing with many of our computer systems today, you can look at it and there’s no way of knowing what’s possible. Should i tap it once, or twice, or even triple tap? Discoverability, when it’s not there, well you don’t know how to use something.” Roman: Another is feedback. Don: So many times, there’s no feedback – you don’t know what happened, or why it happened. Roman: And these principles form the basis of how designers and engineers work today: commonly known as User- or human-centered design. Don: I decided user was a bit degrading, why not call people people? It’s amazingly simple, and amazingly seldom practiced.” We call it iterative because it goes around in a circle. We observe what is happening today, people doing the task. And from that, we say we have some ideas. Here’s what we propose to do. Joe: Then you prototype the solution, and test it. And this process has spread all over the world, and is improving lives - from better every day things like the ones Don wrote about, to using the process to solve huge problems in public health in developing countries – water, sanitation, farming, and lots more. So what’d be a better, human centered door? Don: An ideal door is one where that as I walk up to it and walk through it. I’m not even aware that I had opened a door and shut it. And I don’t have to be aware because it’s so well designed that it’s just automatic. So if you had a door which had a flat plate, what could you do? Nothing. The only thing you can do is push. So, see? You don’t need a sign. Flat plate – you push. Roman: This kind of push bar with the piece sticking out on one side works well too, so you can see what side you’re supposed to push on Don: Vertical bars could go either way. A simple little hand thing sort of indicates pull. Roman: But we still have terrible, terrible doors in the world. So many of them. Don: There are lots of things in life are fairly standardized. Whether I buy this house or not is not a function of whether it has good doors in it. Except for safety reasons, doors tend not to be improved. Roman: But the tyranny of bad doors must end. I think that it’s a really shitty design the fact that the put A PULL HANDLE when it’s a push. So it should be a flat panel here. And not a GODDAMN pull handle. that’s how i feel about this door. it’s very misleading. (I agree) Roman: You’re right becky. You’re goddamned right. And if we all thought like you, well, we might just design better world together. "It won't open because it's a security door!" "What the **** are you two doing in here?" Hey, so as you can see, since I started making this video, they've since changed the door a little bit. Guess it's a step in the right direction. Thank you so much for watching and to 99% invisible, one of my favorite podcasts, it was so much fun getting to collaborate with with them. Check them out on any podcast app or

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 32 seconds
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 21
Posted by: voxmedia on Feb 27, 2016

This video is about doors. Joe Posner investigates, with some help from 99% invisible, a wonderful podcast. Check them out here: Subscribe to our channel here:

There's a door on the 10th floor in the Vox Media office I hate so much. You probably know one of these too. But it's not our fault.

And luckily, Roman Mars of 99% Invisible magically arrived in my cellphone to send me on a cross-country journey to find out the incredible surprises behind this common complaint:

Don Norman started complaining about doors over 25 years ago. Doors shouldn't need instructions – the shape of them can guide you through just fine. So why do so many doors need instruction manuals right on the side of them?

When most people complain about something, nothing happens. Don Norman is not most people – he's a psychologist and cognitive scientist. Don Norman thought about, and wrote about his complaints so incredibly thoroughly that he changed the world. 99% Invisible's Roman Mars helps tell the story. is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out to get up to speed on everything from Kurdistan to the Kim Kardashian app.

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