Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Bad Designs: How Do You Open the Refrigerator?

Bad Designs: How Do You Open the Refrigerator?
[人因工程 ]

Bad Designs: How do you open the refrigerator?

At my new job there is a refrigerator where employees put their lunches. The first time I tried to open the refrigerator I didn't see a handle on the front, but I found one on the left side of the door. (See arrow.) I pulled on the handle, but the door would not open. I thought maybe the refrigerator door had a really strong seal, so I pulled harder. I pulled so hard the whole refrigerator started moving! Someone standing nearby told me, "It opens from the other side. I had the same problem when I first tried to open it."

I looked on the right side of the refrigerator and sure enough, there was a handle there too! When I pulled on that handle, the refrigerator door opened easily.

Apparently, the refrigerator door was designed so it could be hinged on either the left or the right side. Thus, handles were put on both sides. However, people only expect to see one handle on a refrigerator door. When the handle doesn't work, they assume the door is stuck or locked.

Design Recommendations:

It would be best to put a handle on the front of a refrigerator door so that it can be easily seen. On a reversible door with handles on both sides of the door, there should be a way of removing or concealing the handle on the hinged side. There should not be visible handles on both sides!

Editor's Comments:

The refrigerator door cited by the author is another example of highly misleading "false symmetry" inflicting no end of inconvenience on end users. Yet one is inclined to cut the person responsible a little slack. Why? Because the false symmetry in this case was not the result of a styling whim. It was the unfortunate side effect of an earnest attempt to provide consumers with a door that could open in either direction while keeping manufacturing costs down. This does not alter the fact that it is still a bad design which inconveniences countless end users. But at least it saved the purchaser a little money. A better solution would have been a higher visibilty, easier to grab door handle that could be attached to either side of the door. The same cannot be said of the "streamlined" stapler featured in an earlier article, which probably cost more to manufacture, was probably tagged as a "deluxe model" and priced accordingly.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Bad Designs: How Do You Open the Refrigerator?
Illustration: How Do You Open the Refrigerator?
Author: Michael J. Darnell
Affiliation: Bad Human Factors Designs
Publication Date: 1998-1999
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

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