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July 9, 2010 / fayafshar

Can labels be too much of a good thing?

I came across the following door at our local medical centre the other day:

Medical Centre Door with unnecessary label

Medical Centre Door with unnecessary label

The other side of the door looks the same (with exactly the same handles) but with a label “pull”.

Yet the door can be pushed or pulled just as easily, so it makes me wonder why they have bothered to label the door??

The handles above afford pulling more than pushing, however they can be just as easily pushed.

I wonder if this is actually confusing users rather than helping them? The only way to find out would be to perform some usability testing, but my personal experience has been to pull the door open on either side.



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  1. Varun D / Jan 4 2011 4:59 am

    Ah, this always gets me! When I can clearly see the door can open either ways, and it says “Pull”, it takes me at least a second to decide my move. Waste of precious time, in my opinion 🙂

    I think a third version of a sticker must be used, Pu-ll/sh or something. I will make one and send it to you.

    • fay afshar / Jan 4 2011 8:27 am

      I think you’re onto something Varun! I agree, it is a waste of precious, places an unnecessary cognitive load on the user, plus if someone is behind it, it can look embarrassing 🙂

  2. Varun D / Jan 5 2011 3:19 am

    Here is the link to my post on the new* and improved* sticker for Push-Pull doors that are capable of both. Plus, I have also talked a little bit about “washroom doors”, which seems like an interesting usability topic.

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