Understanding good design through StepNPull and the Design of Everyday Things

images directly from stepnpull.com

Design iterations and testing

The StepNPull device is a metal plate that connects to the bottom of a door directly below the handle via three countersunk screws that are flush with the mounting plate.

Principles of good design

In DSGN 1, I learned “good design” includes:

  1. easily discoverable signifiers of what affordances are possible
  2. mental models that align with previous experiences of a user’s interactions with shapes, goals, or cultural aspects of designs and designer’s conceptual model matches successfully with user
  3. signifiers shown to users user so they can understand whether their assumptions or actions about how a certain design works is correct
  4. gulfs of execution that align very well with gulf of evaluation

1. Affordances

Affordances are the relationship between the physical object and capabilities of the person that determines what actions are possible.

2. Signifiers

Signifiers are cues that allow users to know where an action should take place and provide some basic understanding with feedback notifying of the effects of their actions.

3. Mental Models

Mental models represent a person’s understanding of how something works. My mental model includes the StepNPull to be like a “foot doorknob.” The creator’s mental model was that the people in their workplace opened the doors with paper towels so when the c-channel shaped prototype appeared and they were already looking for hand door-opening alternatives, they saw it as an option. However, everyone’s mental model is different, so some users might think the StepNPull is a door jam since it’s attached at the bottom. It could even be something dangerous since the grooves upward, like tacks. It could take a learning curve of a new mental model to be formed.

Peer feedback and founder responses

Classmates in DSGN 1 gave feedback for the StepNPull device and we were able to ask the founder, Mike, these questions.

Feedback: the StepNPull could be more at an angle or the scallops could be longer to give more space for pulling the door

Response: there was actually redesigns done for a local college class where they built a test device that “recognized frictional force with certain pounds against the device” and tried variations with “pointy teeth, gills, scallops, step was angled up, some had lines like a sharks tooth, some were higher.” However, based on measurements, “all of them worked fine but there wasn’t really a difference between the efficiency” of any.

Feedback: might be difficult to open heavy doors

Response: The founder said that it’s not door weight but door closers (the hinges) which change the resistance. He said the ADA recommends no more than 5 pounds of resistance, which is included on the installation instructions (figure 1) so other than that, the device should be able to open any door.

Good design is more than just “good design”

Learning more about classic heuristics of good design from DSGN 1 was fun but talking to the StepNPull founder about important aspects like manufacturing, testing, and materials helped me learn about more aspects of good design.

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