A Physical Affordance is a physical feature that gives a clue to use. For example, dials, levers, click, gesture, drag, etc. According to the book, The Design of Everyday Things, “When a simple thing needs pictures, labels or instructions, the design has failed.” I have found countless of physical affordances with signs and labels. Usually it’s on door entrances. The door has a bar handle, but the user does not know if its supposed to pushed or pulled. From my experience I have always pulled because I assume it’s a bar to be pulled. I have been wrong at time and I was supposed to push. I don’t understand why people install these pull bars when the door needs to be pushed instead of pulled. In that case, they should have what we call “panic bars”. These bars are to be always pushed in order to open the door.
At Cal Poly Pomona, I came across this paper-towel dispenser in the women’s restroom. Now, I already knew how to use this before reading the labels, but I asked myself, why would they put a label on it? We are college students. We’re not that stupid, are we? The labels say, “Pull down with two hands” and ” If no towel turn knob”. I laughed when I read it because I don’t think it’s that hard to figure out how to use this, but I guess some people do need instructions. It’s clear to me what I have to do in order to get a paper-towel. I need to pull down the paper-towel, and that’s it, and if I couldn’t pull down a paper-towel then I would assume that I would have to turn a knob in order to bring down a sheet.
In this case, this paper-towel dispenser design fails, only because the college decided to put a label on it. But then again, if the college thought it needed labels was probably because users had a hard time figuring out how to use it. So the design fails entirely. There are updated designs of these dispensers. For example, the ones with a sensor that automatically brings down a paper-towel and all one needs to do is pull it to cut it off. Similarly, but not entirely, the latest hand dryers from Dyson are amazing. All one needs to do is put their hands into the machine and let the pressured air push off the excess water left on the hands.