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Date: 01-Jul-2022
Posted by: Michael PUTZ
Category:

Human Centered Design: Opening doors to more usability

 

Many things in everyday life are designed in such a way that people first have to understand the technology behind it in order to be able to operate it. Especially with doors, it is extremely annoying when they do not function intuitively. In this blog post you can read how Human Centered Design can be used to design all objects and thus also doors in such a way that they do not require any operating instructions.


First real date with the Tinder acquaintance. He's terribly nervous and unfortunately too late. She is already waiting in the most frequented café in town - two tables behind the entrance. He sees them through the glass front, they also see him, both smiling, he storms the glass entrance door, wants to push it open - and bangs against it with full force. Unfortunately, the cavalier has overlooked the small brass shield in the heat of the battle - and now he tries to make the best possible impression with a bloody nose and a few red spots on his white shirt collar with the potential lady of his heart. He tries to ignore the gloating looks of the other guests as best he can.

 

Things can also be to blame

The young man's late arrival may be unforgivable, but the front door or its designer is to blame for his embarrassing accident. Even if he has placed the operating instructions in brass exactly where you should see them. Doors that can only be opened in ways you would not expect cause trouble in many places - in buildings, on trains or even cars. However, the best door is still the one that the user does not consciously perceive.

Hotels in the uppermost price range, for example, offer an optimal solution. There waiters open in chic livery and greet on top of that. Such luxury solutions are unfortunately not suitable for the masses and that is why there are many, many doors in this world that are really annoying. These annoyances are also known as "Norman-Doors". The patron of this name is Donald Arthur Norman, a university professor from California, who wrote a bestseller on usability in the book "The Design of Everyday Things". One of the main statements of this work is accordingly:

People often accuse themselves of misusing objects. However, it is not the user's fault, but the lack of intuitive guidance that should be present in the design.

 

The design includes operating instructions

A user-friendly entrance door of a café could look like this: It can be opened inwards. A simple metal plate instead of a handle signals this to the user at a glance - because he cannot wind it up at all. The handle is attached to the inside of the door and also serves at the same time so that the gentleman from our example of the ladies can hold the door open when leaving the establishment - as the etiquette teaches. However, it is not necessary to hold the door open when entering: In our culture, the gentleman enters a restaurant first to protect the ladies from possible dangers.

Good design must fit into the culture

In Italy, on the other hand, user-friendly local doors must follow a completely different logic: This is where the Ladies' Lord is holding the door open because she is the first person to be given the attention of those present. Human centered design is therefore highly dependent on culture - this may sound extremely logical, but it is often overlooked. Car manufacturers, who are used to operating globally, regularly put their foot in their mouth here - even with such simple things as product names: Fiat did not know, for example, that "Uno" in Finnish meant moron and Mitsubishi had to rename their off-roader "Pajero" in the Spanish-speaking area "Montero". The former was a coarse expression for a rather lonely kind of male sexuality. Human Centered Design starts with the naming.

 

Human Centered Design follows a standard

Given the many annoying doors that surround us and the many other everyday objects where you first have to pull the "nipple through the flap", it is surprising that the Human Centered Design concept dates from the 1990s. There is also an ISO standard that defines the procedure for human centered design in interactive systems (doors are included here). Using the example of the entrance door for the café in our example, the process would look like this:

1. Understanding the context of use
Many people pass through this door during opening hours. The guests also want to look outside into the forecourt and the garden of the house. Once the café is closed, passers-by should be able to take a look inside the restaurant to get a taste of a visit.

2. Determining the requirements
The door should not be visible during opening hours. The operator of the café has a high interest in the fact that many guests come - so the entry should be quite low-threshold possible. In addition, the connection between the interior and exterior of the café should be direct and not interrupted. If the establishment is closed, the door should keep uninvited guests outside, but still allow views from outside.

3. Design of design solutions
A break-proof glass door is ideal: It is almost invisible and allows a view inside and outside. The material should be break-proof because of the burglary protection - but it should also not burst in the event of a "maloperation" with a connected collision between the head of a guest and the glass front. To prevent such accidents, there is no handle or buckle on the outside of the door, only a metal plate including a cylinder lock. Inside, a large handle makes it easier to open and hold the door. It should also be possible to open it in both directions - i.e. offer a pull-push solution from the inside. Because a waiter who has to open a door with a full serving tray will soon look for a new job.

4. Evaluating the solution
The guests of the café are even the best beta testers. And the landlord can "inaugurate" his newly intelligent entrance door with a funny action. Every guest who does run into the glass of the intelligent design gets a schnapps (or an alcohol-free equivalent) against the pain.

 

Design Thinking is human centered design in a somewhat new look

As you can see, Human Centered Design is difficult to use. Nor, thank God, has the concept been forgotten. Although one could believe that with the many everyday objects that annoy. As "Design Thinking" it is just making a comeback - albeit in a slightly different form. The Design Thinking process consists of 6 phases:

  1. comprehension
  2. observation
  3. defining a Perspective
  4. brainstorming
  5. develop prototypes
  6. checking

There is also another important difference between the two concepts. The goal of Human Centered Design is to achieve the highest possible user experience or usability. Design Thinking, on the other hand, is intended to develop innovative and creative solutions for complex problems that satisfy the user, are technically feasible and economically viable. From the perspective of Human Centered Design, the best solution for the café in our example would actually be a doorman - because it would be more pleasant to enter or leave a restaurant. And the nimble waiters would also be happy if someone held the door open for them. However, the Design Thinking approach would certainly result in a break-proof glass door - but only for economic reasons.

 

Conclusion: Human Centered Design: Opening doors to more usability

We all go through many doors through life. So it's amazing how many of them have a really bad and user-unfriendly design. This may be because the developers have always attached more importance to the "lockout" function than to the "walk through" function. So doors are hurdles that slow us all down in our dynamics. Even if a door that opens in exactly the other direction than we think might give us a moment of silence and inner contemplation: with these "norm-doors" we all do not get as far as we could get. And that's very unfortunate.

Innovation Check

Michael PUTZ

Born in the Salzkammergut. After working for Shell and Porsche, he concentrated on innovation management as a study assistant at the Innovation Department of the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. In 2003 he founded LEAD Innovation and manages the company as Managing Partner. Lectures at MIT, in front of companies like Google or NASA.

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