Every one of us can relate to the experience of approaching confidently to a door and end up feeling dumb because you did the opposite of what you where supposed to do to open it.
Duh. It says clearly says PUSH on the sign, doesn't it?
But the thing is, we should not be worrying about doors. We can't just go around reading every label on our environment. What about it's shape? What about it's details? What about it's implicit message? It should be easier.
In fact, if you and other people continually get it wrong, it’s a good sign that it’s a really bad door. And we actually have a term for it: Norman door.
A Norman door is a poorly designed door that confuses or fails to give you an idea whether to push or pull. It was named after Don Norman, the author of The Design of Everyday Things, who explored the phenomenon.
To deepen in this subject Roman Mars teamed up with Joe Posner of Vox to interview none other than Don Norman himself to bring you the story of terrible doors:
Doors shouldn't need instructions - the shape of them can guide you just fine. Good design is present when you don't have to be aware. When it simply looks and feels natural to people.
In this way we start speaking of concepts like discoverability, which is related to the ability to look at something and be able to discover what operations can be done with it. To the idea that objects should be intuitive.
Of course, this principle applies to a wider spectrum in design, it is not exclusive to door fabrication.
We are inundated with products whose features make us frustrated and stressed. Products that don’t understand us and as a result, we don’t understand them either.
Besides the design's readability, it should deliver feedback. A signal that communicates it is working: a click, a a snap, a behavioral change. Otherwise it probably will generate confusion, because sometimes you just cannot tell what is going on.
In my interaction with daily objects, I have struggled with various examples of such puzzles. Once I almost got trapped in a public bathroom because the opening system was so "sleek" and "minimal" at sight that you simply had to guess, which led to a several minute battle between me and the door.
In like manner, bathroom fixtures are certainly objects that can generate some trouble, with experiences where you end up with high levels of frustration, pushing every button and turning every handle with a lack of proper response.
Therefore we must remember, design should be always conceived with a human centered approach, one that acts accordingly to what we can expect and perceive from it.
In addition, the human-centered design cycle Norman depicts in the video is simple, yet fantastic. It is born from examination and knowledge. So no matter the scale of what you are working on, keep your eyes wide open and observe the people you are designing for. Observe yourself too. The struggles you encounter, other people will encounter as well.
And then, just repeat these steps as much as you can.