You know the scenario. The door is closing and someone is just running up to get in. Now the appropriate social response (which I will admit is not necessarily the individual self-interested response — that’s why its social) is to reach for the ‘open door’ button in order to open the door.
We know what happens next, you are presented with two buttons — one open and one for closing. And they are not conveniently labelled open or close but something like that depicted here. It isn’t obvious which one to press. I bet you had to stare to see which one was ‘open.’ There is no trigger response unless you are particularly familiar with the elevator in question. So half the time you either pause or hit the wrong button exhibiting an apologetic tilt of the head as the door closes.
This is ridiculous. It isn’t like the elevator people have had no thoughts about buttons. Below is a nice red button that indicates emergency. It is clear. Above are the floor bottons where they have put a friendly star in to indicate the likely focal floor. And the braille on the buttons actually writes ‘open’ and ‘close’ which is very clear except that a person using that likely didn’t see the outsider trying to get in!
It would not be hard to change this and not costly at all in the scheme of things. How about something clear like the words ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ or maybe just ‘O’ and ‘C’ or maybe just a big O on the one button and nothing on the closed button because apparently that doesn’t close anything anyhow.
You may wonder why I decided to launch my rant on ‘open door’ button design today. This morning we had lecture from Danny Kahneman on his new book, Thinking Fast and Slow. He described how people use cues to think fast. It seems to me that when it comes to opening an elevator door we need to think fast and basically the design offers no cues. Over at Strategyprofs, Mike Ryall raises another business puzzle inspired by that talk.