User interface design for interior door locks


How hard can it be to design the user interface of an interior door lock?

Locking or unlocking the door from the inside is typically done with a latch that you turn. Often, the latch handle is in the shape of a bar that turns.

Now, there are two possible ways you can set up your lock. One is that the a horizontal bar represents the locked position and a vertical bar represents the unlocked position. The other is to have a horizontal bar represent the unlocked position and a vertical bar represent the locked position.

For some reason, it seems that most lock designers went for the latter interpretation. A horizontal bar means unlocked.

This is wrong.

Think about what the bar represents. When the deadbolt is locked, a horizontal bar extends from the door into the door jamb. Clearly, the horizontal bar position should recapitulate the horizontal position of the deadbolt. It also resonates with the old-fashioned way of locking a door by placing a wooden or metal bar horizontally across the face. (Does no one say "bar the door" any more?)

Car doors even followed this convention, back when car door locks were little knobs that popped up and down. The up position represented the removal of the imaginary deadbolt from the door/jamb interface. Pushing the button down was conceptually the same as sliding the deadbolt into the locked position.

But now, many car door locks don't use knobs. Instead, they use rocker switches. (Forwards means lock. Or is it backwards? What is the intuition there?) The visual indicator of the door lock is a red dot. But what does it mean? Red clearly means "danger", so is it more dangerous to have a locked door or an unlocked door? I can never remember; I always have to tug on the door handle.

(Horizontally-mounted power window switches have the same problem. Does pushing the switch forwards raise the window or lower it?)

Comments (75)
  1. Cooney says:

    Now, there are two possible ways you can set up your lock. One is that the a horizontal bar represents the locked position and a vertical bar represents the unlocked position. The other is to have a horizontal bar represent the unlocked position and a vertical bar represent the locked position.

    I buy locks where the slot is always vertical. To lock the deadbolt, you turn it towards the edge of the door. Unlock is the reverse.

    > Does pushing the switch forwards raise the window or lower it?

    Write a test case and find out ;)

  2. Locksmith says:

    The mounting holes for a deadbolt lock are positioned above and below the bolt. The handle is often positioned so that the screws are blocked when the bolt is extended into the door frame. This causes the handle to be vertical when the door is locked. It also prevents a deadbolt from being disassembled while it is locked.

  3. mfink says:

    I can never remember; I always have to tug on the door handle.

    That’s a good exercise if you want to remember later if you really locked your car door, even if you have that "remote control" keys to lock the car door.

  4. Derek says:

    A recent invovation on the car window front I always thought was smart, was the switches where you actually lift up on the switch to raise the window, and push down to lower it. I dunno who did these first, but I saw them first on some Chysler cars (my wife had a 1995 Avenger with this).

    I complete agree on door locks. Even worse – the house we just moved into has two different styles of deadbolts. The front door you turn the vertical bar toward the door frame (the way it should be in my mind). The back door you turn a horizontal bar away from the door frame. After 6 months it still drives me crazy.

  5. Renaud Martinon says:

    Interesting. In France, most if all not locks use the horizontal position for locked and the vertical position for unlocked. I’ve always reflected that the horizontal stood for the bar in the "Sens interdit" road sign. This sign signifies the wrong way in a one way street. I have no idea how you call it in english (maybe simply "wrong way" ?).

    Also, I’ve always associated the red dot on rocker locks to the red in a "Stop" sign, since once the door is locked it stops you from passing through.

  6. Olivier says:

    In my family (of french canadians) we still say "barrer la porte" ("bar the door") instead of the more modern/proper "verouiller la porte" ("lock the door"), the same way we still call corn "blé d’inde" ("indian wheat").

    Old habits die hard, but I wonder if it’s more a matter of culture preservation…. ;)

  7. Raymond,

    A worse user interface problem with locks is when the door knob always turns from the inside whether or not it’s locked. This "feature" is actually required by UL standards. Not only can you not tell if they’re locked by the direction of the bar, you can’t even try doors from the inside. This invariably leads to opening a door from the inside, walking out, shutting the door, and only then realizing the door had been locked and now you’re locked out.

    Josh

  8. Tony says:

    Now here in Germany, a horizontal bar means locked. And I don’t remember any vertical==locked interior doors in Germany, and if I would see one, I would consider it clearly wrong. But I think, door latches in the US differ slightly further in design from the once used here in Germany.

    One thing that happend to me while being confronted with an electric car seat adjustment switch for the first time: It resembled the car seat, viewed from the side. One horizontal "knob" for the seat area and one vertical for the backrest. I managed to get the seat up and down (Pull/push the horizontal button up/down). I managed to get the backrest forward and backward (Push/pull the vertical button forward/backward). But it took me some time to figure out how to get the seat closer to the wheel. For pushing the horizontal button forward, it offered only a small surface, I didn’t expect that it had a second degree of freedom (forward/backward) and I was afraid to break it…

  9. BradC says:

    An even more frustrating inconsistency:

    What direction do you turn the key to unlock the door?

    On my back door, (handle on left) I turn the deadbolt clockwise to unlock (away from the jam). I turn the handle counter-clockwise to unlock (toward the jam). Same door, same key, different direction.

    On my 1991 Ford Festiva, I turn the key toward the FRONT of the car to unlock. (Left on Driver, Right on passenger)

    On my 1995 Pontiac Grand Am, I turn the key toward the REAR of the car to unlock (Right on driver, left on passenger)

    (yes, I need a new car…)

    Which one is CORRECT? Keeping in mind the mechanics of the deadbolt (a bar sliding into the door jam), the correct direction to unlock would be AWAY from the door jam (sliding the bar out).

    Even if the lock mechanism itself doesn’t use the "bar", they should follow this convention.

  10. Tony says:

    One more thing with UI design for buttons, that isn’t consistent: If you have a button with some sort of display, should it display the current state (like locked/unlocked), or should it display the action you can perform (like open/close)? A closed door can be represented with a closed lock symbol (for "this door is closed") or a open lock (for: "You can open this door by pressing this button"). Are there any guidelines at MicroSoft about this?

    (Sorry for posting twice)

  11. Jonathan says:

    Tony: This drives me bonkers in games. I’ll frequently run across games that have buttons that change state when you click on them. Does the button text indicate my current state, or the state that I will enter when I click on it? I have no idea. Avoiding this type of UI is probably the best idea, even if there are standards.

  12. Raymond Chen says:

    "It also prevents a deadbolt from being disassembled while it is locked."

    Wouldn’t the fix for this be to design the lock so the screws aren’t on the outside?

  13. Rich says:

    When you’re ready for the car to move forward, push the car door lock button forward. That’s how I’ve come to remember it at least.

  14. Random Person says:

    The other is to have a horizontal bar represent the unlocked position and a vertical bar represent the locked position.

    I always thought of this, ever since I was a child of 7 or 8, as horizontal meaning pass-thru and vertical meaning blocked (or a locked door in your way)

    As for rocker car door locks, mine are intuitive, because lock is backward… so when I’m getting out of my car, I slide my finger across the rocker pulling away from the vehicle and it locks everything up with a single graceful motion.

  15. Vorn says:

    <i>Wouldn’t the fix for this be to design the lock so the screws aren’t on the outside?</i>

    Then you wouldn’t be able to install or remove it, even when it was unlocked.

    Vorn

  16. Raymond Chen says:

    By "outside" I mean "where the bad guys are; the side opposite the lock knob". All locks I’ve seen have the screws on the secure side of the door.

  17. teh win says:

    i think he means "on the side of the door that faces outward", not that the screws need to be internal to the lock.

  18. teh win says:

    dammit, too slow

  19. Random Person says:

    Door locks are almost always installed unlocked, so since the screws are top and bottom, then the bar can’t cover them while in the unlocked state, otherwise, you can’t screw them in (that’s what I’m guessing they mean).

  20. Tim Farley says:

    A few times that I have taken doors apart for home maintenance, I’ve found that the "bar vertical" or "bar horizontal" decision on the inside deadbolt is actually an installer decision. You can have it either way, just set it the way you want when you slide the inner plate into position.

    Your milage may vary, that may just be the brand of lock I happened to have on my door.

  21. jamesl says:

    Was it marketing or engineering that decided a stone-simple sliding dead bold needed to be tarted up with a rotary actuator?

  22. Ray Trent says:

    Was it marketing or engineering that decided a

    > stone-simple sliding dead bold needed to be

    > tarted up with a rotary actuator?

    Mostly engineering. For strength and tamper-resistance you want to have the mechanism inside the door (particularly on metal doors), and have the bolt extend into the jam.

    But it’s really hard to install/operate a straight-line deadbolt installed thus.

    Also, it’s rather hard to have a (secure) mechanism for unlocking the deadbolt from outside that isn’t rotary, and interface consistency insists that the inside mechanism also be rotary.

    Oh, and double-sided deadbolts (keys on both sides) pretty much have to be that way.

    Anyway, Raymond: where do you get the idea that "most" interior locks have horizontal as unlocked? I very rarely see such locks (I’m also in the US).

    With car window switches, push down==window down/pull up==window up is so clearly the right (and safer) answer that it’s soon going to be required.

    And car locks… your car has an accessible mechanical locking lever? (separate from the handle, that is) How odd. Seems like a weak point to me :-). I use an encrypted transponder myself.

  23. Memet says:

    For directions, I think all locks should follow screwing directions which are "lefty-loosy, righty-tighty".

    Also, I would like to point out another reason why it’s wrong to have the locked state be horizonatl: I think a bar in vertical position is more handy to be pulled on: it gives a wider gripping surface when sliding the door sideways (this of course, only applies for sliding doors)

  24. vj says:

    Same goes for the car stereo. The track navigation is placed vertically… does pressing "up" go to the next track or previous track?

  25. vj: My RCA DirecTV box changes the meaning of UP depending on what mode you are in. When you are watching TV, pressing DOWN will go to the previous channel. When you are viewing the channel guide, though, pressing DOWN will execute a page-down — taking you to the NEXT channels.

    Arrrgh.

  26. Eric Lippert says:

    Multi-switch banks of light switches are also fraught with UI peril. As I’ve rewired my house over the years, I’ve made it consistent with the rule "the closer to the door, the more important the switch". That way I can walk through a doorway in the dark and hit the switch closest to me to turn on the brightest light in the room. (I don’t know if this is an industry standard that I’ve rediscovered, or if I’m just making stuff up here!)

  27. Frank says:

    I always have to tug on the door handle.

    In my car (a Renault), when you try to open it from the inside, that unlocks the door if it was locked. For safety reasons, the door can always be opened from the inside.

  28. Chip H says:

    Another door difference between the US and Europe — in the US, your front door opens inward (standing outside, you would push on it to open). In Europe, your front door opens outward (standing outside, you must pull it open). There may be exceptions, but generally, that’s what I’ve seen.

    The story I’ve heard to explain the difference is when your house catches fire, the Europeans want you to be able to escape more easily, while the US wants an easy way for the fire department to rescue you.

    Chip H.

  29. James Schend says:

    I should mention that my DishNetwork box shows the channel guide in ‘reverse order’… channel 1 is at the bottom, channel 2,000,000 (or whatever) is at the top, so that the up and down buttons on the remote always work the way you expect.

  30. Kev says:

    Chip H – In the UK most front (and back) doors open inwards, with the door handle nearly universally on the left hand side when outside.

    Most internal locks are the L shape handles , which tend to be positioned horizontal when closed, and you push them down to open.

    However on UPVC they are weird affairs.

    The lock is logical (turn the key about 480 degrees with the top moving towards the door frame to lock), but the handles are in horizontal with a single latch (the quite often doesn’t hold the door shut!), you pull it up to pull more of the nipples in the slot, and down to open it. To lock them you first need to push it up.

    The Yale locks which have twist handles inside and key locks on the outside can usually be turned either way to open, although they seam to be much rarer now with the uptake of UPVC!

    (The Keycode locks where you have to turn the knob towards the door (how you’d lock a door with a key) constantly throw me))

    The TV guides are weird, pressing up in viewing mode goes

    1. BBC ONE

    2. BBC TWO

    3. ITV-1

    4. Channel 4

    5. Five

    6. ITV-2

    7. BBC THREE

    yet in the TV guide you have to press down as up goes

    7. BBC THREE

    6. ITV-2

    5. Five

    4. Channel 4

    3. ITV-1

    2. BBC TWO

    1. BBC ONE

    if you press up!

  31. boxmonkey says:

    What you are really talking about with this entry and your vending machine entry is ergonomics. Ergonomics isn’t just about making things comfortable, it’s also about making interfaces intuitive. If a lot of people are confused by your interface, if the interface that should change, not the people’s behavior.

    Unfortunately, violations of the simple principles of ergonomics are widespread. The behaviors of locks are a great example; not only are the designers of the locks sometimes at fault, but also the people who purchase and install them hold some liability.

    Consider the place where I work, we have several locked entrances from the outside of the building, and each lock behaves differently. One of them allows you to unlock the door by pressing a code, or by inserting your key and turning it counter clockwise (counter intuitive!), the next lets you enter by turning your key clockwise, and the last requires that you turn your key counter clockwise before turning it clockwise. Surely it would have been possible to purchase three similar locks.

    My car is a 2004 Hyundai Elantra, and the locking mechanism is the worst I’ve had to deal with. On the door, pushing the toggle switch forward locks the doors, but to me pushing forward symbolizes pushing the imaginary deadbolt into the unlocked position (if you’ve ever been in an older car with the internal locks that slide forward and backward, that’s how I expect it to work). Even worse, the remote for my car says to press the unlock button twice within 4 seconds in order to unlock all the doors (once just unlocks the drivers door). The problem is that I’m too quick for it. If I press and then immediately press again, only the drivers door unlocks. I must press, wait two seconds, press again.

    Let’s not get stuck on locks, though. What about light switches? I have seen this problem in two places now, where there is a double light switch next to the main entrance. One of the switches controls the outside light, the other controls an inside light. I’ve always thought that the switch closest to the door should control the outside light, because it’s closest to the outside, but it is never done that way. I guess perhaps the thought of the original designer was that when you come in, you’re going to flip the first switch and if you’re coming in, you want to be able to see in your house. But it’s counter intuitive.

  32. mph says:

    "I’ve always thought that the switch closest to the door should control the outside light, because it’s closest to the outside, but it is never done that way."

    In my current house, it actually is done that way, which I agree is more logical. In my previous apartment, things were even worse. In the dining room, there was a double switch on the wall; one controlled the outside light on the balcony, the other controlled the ceiling fan in the room. Not only was the balcony switch the more interior of the two, but the ceiling fan switch was installed upside down! (The balcony switch was right side up. Getting ready for bed was often an iterative experience.)

  33. Ken says:

    Here’s a potential argument for vertical being locked – when the lock is in the vertical position, it looks like "1", or the internation symbol for "on". When it is in that state, the lock is "on" or engaged, preventing the door from being opened.

    Granted, the unlocked state is not "0" for "off", but it is in the not-"1" state.

  34. In my Audi the doors don’t have lock controls except for the driver.

    So I lock and unlock the doors with the remote. One click unlocks my door, a second click does the rest.

    When I hit 8mph or so, all the doors lock automatically. The car "remembers" which doors were opened before we left, and immediately unlocks those same doors as soon as I turn the ignition off.

    If a passenger wants to unlock the door manually, they simply pull the door handle twice. The first time gives a clear indication that the door was locked and the indicator changes to show that it is now unlocked. The second pull will then open the door.

    As for windows, in my car you actually pull "up" and back on the switch to put the window up. You push down/forward to lower it.

    My radio control uses a knob to move to the next track for the CD player. You turn clockwise to go forward, counterclockwise to go back. I think that’s very intuitive so long as your first language reads from left to right :)

    The same knob works the same way for radio tuning as well (clockwise goes "up" to the next station).

  35. Oh yeah, and my apartment has a keypad to control the entrway lock.

  36. Jonathan says:

    Same goes for the car stereo. The track navigation is placed vertically… does pressing "up" go to the next track or previous track?

    My car stereo manages to go one better. Its a 6 CD changer + radio. When it is in radio mode the left / right buttons on the steering wheel transition from pre-set station to pre-set station. So mentally l/r equals new song.

    But in CD mode the up / down buttons change tracks (and no I don’t remember which is next track and which is previous) and left / right change CDs.

    So inevitably when I want the next track I hit the right button and have to wait several seconds for the changer to swap CDs. Then I have to swap back and then find the track I wanted.

  37. Matt Ryall says:

    Actually, boxmonkey, what he is talking about is affordance. Affordance is usually defined as an object giving clues in its appearance or structure that suggest how to use it. Generally it excludes use of language in labels, etc.

    Ergonomics, by contrast, is how well a design fits the human body. For instance, the curvature of your mouse, or the slope on your keyboard. These features fit the human body well, but don’t suggest any particular use of the device (although the position of the buttons or labels on the keys might).

    As all the discussion above indicates, affordance is very important for usability in a design, but something not many designers understand.

  38. boxmonkey says:

    Matt,

    It sounds to me as though affordance is a subset of ergonomics, though people who study affordance exclusively may not appreciate that distinction. Admittedly, I had never heard of affordance before, and m-w.com does not recognize the word. Dictionary.com only has one definition for it. Wikipedia basically says that "Affordance is what an object suggests to us." Which is sort of what we’re talking about here.

    But it also says: "Ergonomics is much larger than looking at the physiological and anatomical aspects of the human being. The psychology of humans is also a key element within the ergonomics discipline. This psychological portion of ergonomics is usually referred to as Human factors or Human factors engineering in the U.S., and ergonomics is the term used in Europe. Understanding design in terms of cognitive workload, human error, the way humans perceive their surrounds and, very importantly, the tasks that they undertake are all analysed by ergonomists."

    In summary: you’re not wrong and neither am I.

  39. Boris Zakharin says:

    How about in the computer world, where you use the down arrow (or page down) to move whatever’s on the screen up? You get used to it, of course (especially when you’re a programmer) and the scrollbar (assuming there is one) does indicate the correct direction of movement, but for those new to computers it can be difficult.

  40. Biki says:

    > Clearly, the horizontal bar position should recapitulate the horizontal position of the deadbolt.

    ‘reflect’ would sound better in that sentence

  41. Chip, here in New England, your main door opens inward, because you have a storm door that opens outwards. You could skip the storm door, but you could also have a living room full of rain and slush.

    If you had both doors open outward, then it would be kind of hard to get outside.

    Installing a single door facing inward gives you the chance to install a storm door on the outside.

    My front door is weird. The locked position is at 2 o’clock and unlocked is 10 o’clock. It’s almost like they wanted to make it horizontal but just didn’t have enough energy. But the side door is exactly wrong (vertical = locked) and I just can’t get used to it!

  42. Raymond Chen says:

    (I just checked the locks in my house – not only do you not have a choice as to lever orientation, the installation screws are to the *left and right* of the lock rather than above and below. In other words, it’s both hard to install *and* wrong!)

  43. Mat Hall says:

    "You can have it either way, just set it the way you want when you slide the inner plate into position."

    This has always been my experience — the knob has a square hole on the inside which fits over a metal bar, and which way round the knob is when it’s locked depends entirely on which way round it was when you fitted it.

    I’ve always found US door locks to be a bit peculiar. In the UK they normally fall in to one of two categories:

    The "deadbolt with the big lump stuck on the back of the door" with a knob you *turn and hold* to open. No matter whether it’s vertical or horizontal at rest, you have to turn it to open the door. Normally it’s horizontal when closed as it’s easier on the wrist. When locking the door from the outside, turning the key an additional 360 degrees engages a deadbolt, meaning the door CANNOT be opened from inside; this prevents an intruder from smashing a nearby window to let themselves in.

    Double glazed UPVC doors usually have a more complicated mechanism. On the inside you have a normal door handle (the L-shaped lever variety, not the round knob that the US seems to favour, and which are hard to open for people without a firm grip) connected to a standard bevelled latch; pushing the handle down opens the door, and pulling it up engages one or more additional bolts (either the bar variety that protrude into the door jamb, and others a sort of flanged nipple that slide into a groove on the frame) which pulls the door tight against the seals. The door can then be locked with a key. From the outside, there’s a smaller L-shaped knob — when the door is locked, this is immobile; unlock the door, and the handle can then be turned to disengage the secondary bolts. Opening the requires a second turn of the key — this pulls back the latch and in you go. From the inside, pulling the handle down and truning the key may also allow the exterior door handle to be used to open the door in place of the key.

    All in all both varieties are much more secure than the standard single throw bolt that I see in the US. The older deadbolt is simpler in operation than the more modern multi-point locks, but the general "turn the key/handle away from the door" principle is still sound — it’s just been given a lot more options!

    What I always find confusing is swing doors that need to be pushed but have a pull handle on them. When I come in to work in the morning I pass through two sets of swing doors, one set about six feet past the other. The first set require pulling, and the second set require pushing, but BOTH have a pull handle. Too many times I’ve nearly wrenched my arm out of its socket on the way through the second set. (Strangely, when leaving the building, the doors that you need to pull to get in and are now push to leave just have a plate on them, as you’d expect.)

  44. James Schend says:

    Yikes, now I have to go out into the parking lot and look at my car.

    Well, in my 2004 PT Cruiser my power locks lock when you push backwards (back-and-downwards, really.) My window controls are all mounted vertically, except the ones in the back seat where pushing them towards the front of the car is up, and the back of the car is down. (And passengers frequently step on the window control by mistake. Bad design there.) I don’t know which way I turn the key to open the door… with power locks and remote entry, I hardly ever use the key for the door.

    But yes, the one that really bothers me is the stereo, it does the exact opposite of what I’d expect. Hitting ‘up’ plays the *next* CD track, and ‘down’ plays the *previous* CD track. I’m used to seeing the list of tracks (like on the back of the CD case) as flowing from the top to the bottom, so hitting ‘down’ should play the next track on the CD. I would think that’s blatently wrong, but my buddy tells me that all car CD players work that way and all home CD players have the controls horizontal and bypass the problem.

  45. jsuen says:

    The car door which pulls open (aforementioned Audi and some American cars) is a safety hazard. The door handle should always be inoperative when the door is locked, as it prevents you from snagging your clothes. I also managed to open a 80s Volvo door at highway speeds once, due to the little lever in the door handle, which I thought did the windows.

    What’s more important is consistency, or in the airplane industry "commonality". TWA ordered their airplanes with the overhead switches in the wrong way (forward for on), lots of fun when American and TWA merged. On the other hand, every single Airbus cockpit since the A320 is just about the same.

    Works on cars too, when we had all Nissan vehicles, I never messed up the wipers or door locks. Actually, the door locks on most cars are simple: protruding for unlocked, flush for locked. Except on my new Subaru, which doesn’t protrude, and is back for locked.

  46. Locksmith says:

    In my country:

    1. Doors usually has the handle to the left when standing at the outside looking at them.

    2. Doors is opened outwards.

    3. When handle&lock is to the left: turn the key clockwise to unlock the lock.

    handle&lock to the right: turn the key counter clockwise to unlock.

    4. Key is inserted vertically in a locked lock.

    The local pizzeria breaks rule #2. My workplace breaks rule #3, drives me nuts.

    If a door does not follow #1-rule, the lock has to be switched/turned at the installation to comply with rule #3, not every lock is designed with this possibility.

  47. Phylyp says:

    In India, the horizontal position for the bar indicates locked.

    Maybe this is a "metaphor" difference between the US and India? Another example is light switches: flick it down to turn on the light, up to turn it off.

  48. Thomas says:

    Red clearly means "danger"…

    Now I understand, why women use lipstick…

  49. John Topley says:

    "Now I understand, why women use lipstick…"

    Actually some anthropologists say that lipstick is used because it accentuates the lips in a way that at a subconscious level makes potential mates think of the female sex organs.

  50. Hehe, while we’re on the UI-design, my parents has a kitchen fan where some designer obviously wanyed to think "out-of-the-box" so it has three push-buttons, one for the light, one for the fan and one for super-power-fan.

    The interesting thing is that when the fan is off the buttons are in their "in"-position, so to turn something on, you press the button and it comes out…

    Now imagine what happens when for instance the lamp is on and you want to turn it off. Obviously you press one of the buttons that are in their "in" state and instead of turning off the lamp you start the fan…

  51. Jonathan Wilson says:

    On the front door here, there is a knob that has a keyhole on the outside and a twist knob on the inside.

    There is also a deadbolt where the lock bar comes out from the middle of the door which has a keyhole on the outside and a knob to lock it on the inside (although using a keyhole on the inside too would be more secure IMO)

    On both back doors, there is a security grille door and a regular door. Both door types have a little lever on the inside that can lock the door so it cant open.

    Then there is a keyhole that is on both the inside and outside. If the door is open and you lock it with the keyhole, the door will lock and the little lever wont move at all (you then need to use the key to open it again).

    If it is locked with the key, you need to use the key to open it.

    If it is locked with the little lever and you use the key (on either the inside or the outside) it will unlock it.

  52. Mat Hall says:

    ‘Red clearly means "danger"…’

    Don’t be so sure — red == danger is just a cultural thing. In these days of western bulture spreading to all corners of the globe it’s probably not an issue, but it’s important to remember that some types of symbolism then seem "obvious" to you may either mean nothing or have a completely different interpretation to someone else.

    Colour cues, as well as suffering from cultural bias, have the added problem that colour blindness may make the state hard to recognise. For example, a light that turns from red to green to indicate something has moved from a "safe" to "unsafe" condition is no use to about 6% of the world’s population…

  53. Gordon says:

    I have two locks on my apartment. One is a very well-designed deadbolt. On the inside, you rotate a lever from 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock to lock the door, and in reverse to unlock it, which makes sense. The other one is exactly opposite — not only doesn’t it have a lever (it uses a key that’s permanently mounted inside), but it rotates the other damn direction!

    My car, on the other hand, does things quite well. The interior lock switch has an icon of an open door (as viewed from above the car) for unlock, and a key icon for lock. This is second only to Ford’s use of L and U — hard to mess that one up.

  54. Brian Duffy says:

    "A recent invovation on the car window front I always thought was smart, was the switches where you actually lift up on the switch to raise the window, and push down to lower it. I dunno who did these first, but I saw them first on some Chysler cars (my wife had a 1995 Avenger with this). "

    Actually, that configuration is being banned for safety reasons. A number of children in the US have fallen to their deaths when they leaned out the window and stepped on the window toggle.

  55. Adrian says:

    The deadbolts I used to have required a 180 degree twist, so the handle was always vertical, locked or not. Even worse, you turned the handle "away" from the jamb to lock it and toward the jamb to unlock it (from a higher-than-the-lock perspective).

    The deadbolts we have now are the usual 90 degree turn with leverage to throw the bolt farther, but they are never horizontal. Rather, they are diagonal: leaning away from the jamb means unlocked, leaning toward the jamb means locked.

  56. Oli says:

    "Actually, that configuration is being banned for safety reasons. A number of children in the US have fallen to their deaths when they leaned out the window and stepped on the window toggle."

    Errr… What were the children doing not SITTING in the car when it was moving? It sounds like they are addressing the wrong problem…

  57. Anonymous Coward says:

    And look at room 116.

    I managed to lock myself onto the balcony of that room thanks to an autolocking interior lock inside the room!

  58. Jonathan says:

    Maybe this is a "metaphor" difference between the US and India? Another example is light switches: flick it down to turn on the light, up to turn it off.

    I actually had to look at the light switch here to see which way it was set. (Flick up to turn on). Due to the number of light switches I encounter which have two (or more) switches controlling a single circuit I don’t think about which way to throw the light switch in order to attempt to get light, I just toggle it to the other position.

    Possibly another contributing factor to this is that light switches aren’t mounted consistently, but I couldn’t say since I don’t even notice which way I had to move it to get light.

    Of course, this does lead to the situation when the power is out that lights around my house end up in apparently random configurations, since as I walk around I tend to try to activate them (even though I know they won’t work), but don’t know their initial state (on or off) and don’t always reset them to their initial state after they don’t activate (due to no power).

  59. Following on the latest meme, I&rsquo;m going to link to a page talking about vending machines.

  60. Ray Trent says:

    >"Actually, that configuration is being banned for safety reasons. A number of children in the US have fallen to their deaths when they leaned out the window and stepped on the window toggle."

    >Errr… What were the children doing not SITTING in the car when it was moving? It sounds like they are addressing the wrong problem…

    Not to mention that he got it completely wrong. The push-down/pull-up configuration is practically being *required* in the US, because the bigger problem is kids being caught in closing windows from "forward/back" or "front down/back down" toggle switches.

    (essentially the only workable alternative that meets the new rules is auto-reversing windows, which are unlikely to be adopted due to cost)

    See:

    http://www.kidsandcars.org/Campaign_Fact_Sheets/Power_Windows/saferswitchesfinalrule.html

  61. Ryan Hurey says:

    I think Raymond lives in a spec house with cheap locks.

    From my informal survey:

    1) Kiwckset locks are wrong (Vertical = locked) and cheap.

    2) Schlage locks are correct and not cheap.

    3) 80% of houses have the deadbolt strike plate installed with 1/2 inch screws instead of the correct 3" screws.

    I’ve broken down a few doors in my time, and I’ve never had a correctly installed Schlage lock fail, its always the door that breaks. (Usually because someone gets the K-12 saw started before I get done with the lock and stops on the way to the roof.) Those 1/2 inch screws take one smack with an axe.

  62. DWalker says:

    That reference given by Ray Trent is interesting. It’s mostly concerned with a child accidentally closing a window or a sunroof while leaning out of it. You have to think about how anything (interface design, software, etc.) can be misused. Check out htis excerpt, especially the last sentence:

    "Protection from inadvertent actuation of power windows also may depend on switch location and orientation in a vehicle. For example, a rocker switch that is set into a recess on a vertical door panel is inherently less susceptible to casual contact by occupants, especially a child standing or kneeling on a door armrest while being partially extended outside of the open window, than is a switch mounted flush on a horizontal surface.

    Likewise, console-mounted switches for sunroofs are very susceptible to inadvertent actuation as compared to switches located on the vehicle’s headliner, because a child attempting to look out of an open sunroof would very likely stand on the console to do so."

    Yes, they probably would. Scary thought.

  63. George Bailey says:

    <I>When you’re ready for the car to move forward, push the car door lock button forward.</I><P>

    And when you’re ready to get out, grab the button and yank it out.<P>

    Or something.

  64. Michael J. says:

    Interesting, that only two or so people noticed, that the bigger problem with american locks is not the latch position, but the round handle instead of L-shaped lever. How is it ever possible to open a door which has a round handle, when both of your hands are busy??? With lever, just push it with your elbow.

    About 3-inch screws. Are you kidding? Do you live in the woods alone in a house made of full-sized logs? In California you can make a hole in any house with one hit of an axe, they are made practically of carton.

    P.S. Raymond, try iDrive on BMW, seems this is the worst car interface ever.

  65. Ryan Hurey says:

    Most criminals aren’t smart enough to realize you can break into most vinyl sided houses with a utility knife. Those that are, can learn to pick the lock in under a minute.

    Vinyl Siding –> Foam board –> Insulation –> Drywall.

    Good builders will ad a sheet of 1/2 inch OSB instead of the foam board. Better sheer strength and better protection. Bad builders will do things like bury 20 feet of service entrance electric cable in the wall and no conduit. Very funny when someone hits that with a saw, since the fuse is on the primary side of the transformer.

    And you can’t use drywall screws for your lock, the sheer strength is way to low.

  66. DWalker says:

    Good points, Ryan, although it’s "shear strength", as in shearing off, not "sheer strength".

  67. andy says:

    the one that gets me – yes, lock direction, lock turn direction, the blooming car stereo inconsistencies, all – the one that gets me is the tire pressure interface in the nav system of my infiniti. four tires on a car, right? big 3 inch by 5inch screen, right? how are they arranged to show you the tire pressure? VERTICALLY. Which damn tire is which? This is obviously a system designed by a person who has never driven a car before. sigh.

  68. I live in Austria. I’m quite sure I’ve never, in all of my life, come across a lock latch where horizonal meant locked.

    There typical door in Austria doesn’t have a knob, it has a latch. A latch is far easier to handle than a knob: it doesn’t require a strong grip, you can open the door with an elbow if your hands are occupied, all that stuff. My blunt opinion is that door knobs are braindead. A door knob here indicates that a door either can only be opened with a key or doesn’t block at all – just push/pull and you’re through.

    Whatever.

    The latch typically is in horizontal position. Pressing it down disengages the door so that it can be pushed or pulled open. This fits with old doors where there was an actual extension of the latch that was caught by a hook. Pressing (or sometimes lifting, on very primitive doors) the latch would lift the extension out of the hook. Because the hook was slanted, the door could snap shut.

    The lock latch (if it’s a latch) is open in the horizontal position, locked in the vertical. I believe this is to symbolize the blocking of the normal latch, but I’m not sure.

    As for doors opening inwards or outwards. It is a legal requirement for places where large groups of people come together, such as concert halls or cinemas, to have doors that open outwards. This law was created after quite a disaster some time during the 19th or early 20th century: the Vienna ballhouse, back then lit by real candles, caught fire during a large event. The people pressed for the exit, pressing the people nearest to the doors against them. But since the doors opened inwards, nobody could open them; the pressure of the people prevented it.

    I believe over a hundred people died in that fire.

  69. JDR says:

    Gordon: My car, on the other hand, does things quite well. The interior lock switch has an icon of an open door (as viewed from above the car) for unlock, and a key icon for lock. This is second only to Ford’s use of L and U — hard to mess that one up.

    If you need to read something (like a U or an L) to know how a switch works, at least in terms of affordance, as failed.

    Your car sounds a lot like the controls my gf’s volkswagon — maybe they make perfect sense to Germans, but I always have to look twice. On the locks, it’s an open door and key…but what does the key mean? Is it for locking the door, or unlocking? And the open door? Is it opening or closing? Maybe your understanding depends on if you’re a optimist or not.

    On the button locking the windows is a little stick-figurish man, I guess representing a child. My gf used to say "hit the little man" to tell me to unlock the windows.

    The most peculiar though, has to be a little symbol by the gear shift. When the car is in park, it lights up… it took me weeks to realize it was a picture of a foot (presumably telling me to step on the brake to shift).

  70. Doug McClean says:

    The door in my bedroom works the way Raymond described. Since I was 5 I have remembered it as "set it the opposite of what makes sense" and always go through the step in my head of inverting the logic for the door, so I agree with Raymond that it is fundamentally wrong.

  71. > The other is to have a horizontal bar

    > represent the unlocked position and a

    > vertical bar represent the locked position.

    Reading the posts it seems this only happens in the USA. In Canada horizontal means locked.

    > Another door difference between the US and

    > Europe — in the US, your front door opens

    > inward (standing outside, you would push on

    > it to open). In Europe, your front door opens

    > outward (standing outside, you must pull it

    > open). There may be exceptions, but

    > generally, that’s what I’ve seen.

    In Canada the door opens inward (like in the US), but that is because we also have a screen door (which opens out) to keep out the bugs and serve as an extra layer of insulation from the cold.

    > When I hit 8mph or so, all the doors lock

    > automatically. The car "remembers" which

    > doors were opened before we left, and

    > immediately unlocks those same doors as soon

    > as I turn the ignition off.

    This SUCKS! I hate auto-lock doors. I like to have the door open when the car stops, not minutes later when the key is out of the ignition. Furthermore, I had one car that would lock after a minute of idling. This caused a coupe of lockouts when wiping the snow off the car in the morning.

    > My car, on the other hand, does things quite

    > well. The interior lock switch has an icon of

    > an open door (as viewed from above the car)

    > for unlock, and a key icon for lock. This is

    > second only to Ford’s use of L and U — hard

    > to mess that one up.

    I never look at the lock switch to unlock it; that takes too much time. The door lock should be forward for unlock and backward for lock. My Pontiac is right, and my Corolla is wrong.

    > That reference given by Ray Trent is

    > interesting. It’s mostly concerned with a

    > child accidentally closing a window or a

    > sunroof while leaning out of it. You have to

    > think about how anything (interface design,

    > software, etc.) can be misused. Check out

    > htis excerpt, especially the last sentence:

    I *WISH* my auto windows were strong enough to hurt children, then at least they would not be frozen shut all the time!!

  72. Soren Madsen says:

    I live in California and my front door has an L shaped handle on the inside. You lock the door by pressing a little round button into the handle – this button is not flat, but is shaped like a latch and can be turned to either vertical or horizontal position. When it is horizontal (or is it vertical…), opening the door from the inside, does not unlock the locking mechanism, thereby making it pretty easy to lock yourself out of the house when taking out the trash.

  73. chul says:

    In Korea most household light switches are side-to-side rockers, and the "on" position is designated by an "O" because to Koreans an empty circle means "yes" and an X means "no". It confuses the hell out of me, because to me "O" means "off".

  74. Bones says:

    This site SUUUUUUUUUUcks big nuts.

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