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03.10.2014 admin
User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. As far as I know, in US, grip-and-turn style door knobs are still the most popular, as opposed to lever-style handles, which dominate in the rest of the world.
Is there some UX advantage to door knobs that I am not aware of, which is the reason for keeping them around?
In the US, grip and turn knobs are used in virtually all homes, while lever style are often seen in offices.
FYI, I had to replace my lever style bedroom door knob with a grip and turn version because the cat figured out how to jump up, pull the lever and bust into the room.
Door knobs are standard in US homes for the same reason that exterior doors open inwards* -- it's "always been done that way". I don't see lever mechanisms and outward-opening doors becoming common in US homebuilding, unless codes are amended to require them.
Looking around for a citation, I saw suggestions that 1) in snowy areas an outward-opening door could trap you inside (and code thus requires inward-opening in some areas), 2) hinges on the outside can have their pins driven out by a burglar, 3) the wind can catch an outward-opening door and damage it. Doorknobs provide a worse UX for bears, which can be a useful feature for humans who want to keep bears out. They are harder for little hands and jumping pets to open (though turning a lever door handle to the vertical also works for these purposes). They are also somewhat less likely to have things catch on them (bag straps, stray elbows), especially in confined spaces. I still think those are not big enough (dis)advantages that any side switches to the other; people use them because people around them use them. Is this actually the reason for them existing though, or are you just applying some retrocausality - assuming a reason where one may not exist? I'm at the exact height so that I also constantly get belt loops stuck in the door handles. You will likely find that less material is needed for a doorknob as well, so they are cheaper. Those that are not specifically shaped, often have a base-plate that makes the mounting different for different door-sides.


Out of interest, door handles normally have a 'stop' built in to the handle which limits the handle's travel to avoid stressing the actual bolt mechanism in the door (on the other hand, knobs don't have that leverage, so they let the mechanism in the door be the 'stop'). While levers that are attached to their baseplate can't be swapped, if you can swap the interior and exterior handles, then the lever becomes usable in either direction.
I don't remember last time using door knobs, could they operate turning both ways (meaning, could I open the door turning the knob either way)? Since you mentioned the US, I feel it's important to bring up the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Do note that the ADA does not apply to all doors in the country (private residences which are not also used for business purposes do not need to adhere to the ADA, for example), and the ADA only applies to things built (or modified) after the ADA went into effect (July 1992), so an old building that hasn't been updated wouldn't necessarily be subject to the ADA standards.
I'm from the UK, live in Spain, and I certainly noticed a lot more grip and turn knobs when I was in the USA.
This makes the appearance neater and the installation easier than the typical European handle, which must have a separate lock. Upon reading your answer, it just sounded a bit one-sided, but you're right about the question asking only about advantages. People grow up used to knobs, and specify knobs on new work, and thus this inferior mechanism is perpetuated. Considering how much pushback there has been over incandescent lightbulbs, I don't see that happening any time soon.
It seems like it would have to do with any hostile person, not just Native Americans, and would go back further than colonial times.
But I do remember being told long ago about being able to barricade an inward-opening door.
This mechanical stop requires the handle to be securely fastened to the door, so handles (with their additional leverage) need a stronger mounting (the mechanical stop in the handle also often prevents you from being able to reverse the handle on the mounting plate). Normally, in particular for interior doors between rooms, the same type of levers is used on both sides of the door. The USA is a country of low material costs and high labour costs, so the convenience of installation may be relevant. This is definitely an advantage for boisterous children who may have their heads at doorknob height.


For lever style grips, both opening and closing is still easily possible with one's elbow.
As for your explanation on that being specific to the USA, though, I am not convinced about that. Most of the ones I've personally seen were privacy locks rather than security locks, but merely having a lever handle does not preclude the incorporation of a lock.
For some buildings (not private homes), some building codes now require lever mechanisms so that the handicapped can operate them more easily.
Maybe if there is some sort of "handicap accessible" certification that would make a home easier to sell, that would encourage the change. In British Columbia, bears have been known to scavenge for food inside cars—whose doors have handles, knob advocates point out.
At the same time, it is also a serious answer: it may be the only answer here with a citation that contains a definitive reason. In most buildings with high occupancy (schools, commercial space), outward-opening doors with crash bars are required.
Pitkin County, Colorado, in the United States, has banned door levers on buildings for this very reason. For example, I hear in the USA, there are even employees packing stuff into bags at supermarkets, which is something completely unknown in most European countries exactly because the labour cost is way too high for such tasks. These codes came after some tragic fires, where people piled up against inward-opening doors. One newspaper columnist in the pro-knob camp has noted that the velociraptors in “Jurassic Park” were able to open doors by their handles.



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