Norman Doors and design

A long time ago a friend gave me a copy of a book named "The Design of Everyday Things", and that's when I first heard of "Norman Doors".

Norman Doors, as I learned, are doors that are designed so poorly that you have no idea whether you should push or pull them. We've all experienced them, a door with a handle that looks like you should pull it, except your supposed to push the door to open it. Or the opposite.

Norman Doors are named after the author of The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman. These days I think we'd refer to this as a meme. Mr. Norman writes about this phenomenon on his website:

Over the years, alert readers of my books have frequently sent me photographs of amusing examples of poor design. Doors are the most common culprit, and to my dismay (and secret pride), really poorly designed doors are often called "Norman doors."

Norman Doors and design

The term "Norman Doors" are often used by designers to refer to any poor design. I look at Twitter, with the menu on the right hand side and the content on the left, and I instantly think "Norman Door". IMHO, it's uncomfortable for humans to work with content on the left side of a menu system, but the designers at Twitter continue with this approach.

If you're an experienced software user, you probably know of many similar software design examples. As Mr. Norman states on his website, programmers and designers often state, "That's not a bug, it's a feature", but of course everyone knows it's really a bug, or a poor design decision.

I always tell designers to trust their human instincts, and to focus on making things that work the way human beings work, not the way you want them to work. That why I can personally look at the current Twitter web app and say I don't like it, because it just feels wrong. I don't know why it feels wrong to have text content on the left side of a menu system, but it does.

Norman Door photos

I'd love to share some Norman Door photos here, but alas, I don't own any. If you Google for Norman Doors and then choose the Images view you'll probably find some good Norman Door examples. If not, you should be able to find some good Norman Door examples on Mr. Norman's website.

If you'd like to donate a photo of a Norman Door to be shared on this website, just send me an email, or leave a note in the Comments section below. I won't link to images on other websites (because those can be changed), but if you grant me permission to use your image, I'll be glad to include it here.

Norman Doors and design - Summary

If you always wondered what Norman Doors were, I hope this article has helped. As you can see, the term is used to refer to poor design of any type, including doors and software design.