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I just moved to a new flat, and I've a personal habit of removing my shoes when entering my flat, similar to the custom in some Asian cultures. This is in order to keep the house clean, and feel the ground with my feet :)

My previous flat had a smaller and less open hallway, so that it was helping to enforce this rule even to guests. On the contrary, the new hallway is bigger and open to the living room and corridor. So there is a lack of guidance here, and people can spread everywhere.

Context

I live in a French city, and many of my guests are familiar with Japanese culture, at least peripherally through things like anime, manga and games. I'm keen to think that either living in a city doesn't entice people to remove their shoes, or that the small hallways don't help either once people have already entered the flat.

Question

How can I design my lobby/entrance so people are aware that removing shoes is requested?

N.B.: I'm living in Europe where there is no such etiquette.

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24  
where in Europe are you? I always thought this was a European vs. American thing, that in Europe we do take off our shoes whilst in America they don't. Certainly in the UK and Sweden it is firm practice to take off your shoes when you go in most peoples houses. – the other one Mar 29 at 9:50
32  
wear really bright socks so that people notice that you're not wearing shoes when you open the door? – icc97 Mar 29 at 12:01
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While I like the question, and love all questions that don't deal directly with computer interfaces, I have to question whether this is really on topic. It seems like it would fit better on lifehacks.stackexchange.com. – DasBeasto Mar 29 at 12:40
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@theotherone, I was thinking the same thing. Over here the expectation is to remove your shoes and walking into someone's house wearing shoes would be considered extremely rude. The obvious exception is when the host tells you not to take them off. – Celos Mar 29 at 14:21
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Why is everyone acting like "Europe" is some big homogeneous place with uniform cultural customs? This is crazy. You know there are hundreds of millions of people living here, right? At least in my part of France, removing shoes is not the norm, but it's not unusual for a host to ask people to remove their shoes either (and people typically comply without complaint). – Najib Idrissi Mar 31 at 9:34

10 Answers 10

Instruct

Having something like this doormat outside your front door will 'permission prime' your guests on your expectations about shoe removal.

enter image description here

Reinforce

Having your shoes on a shoe-rack on the inside of your flat will further reinforce your expectation.

enter image description here

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4  
In India, we have signboards for the same. I doubt anybody will notice this on a doormat. – aitchnyu Mar 29 at 13:05
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We should set expectations for the OP. It is not a normal custom, and therefore the OP will find themselves having to ask folks often. Most folks won't mind once asked, but it may never cross their mind otherwise. Also keep in mind how dreadfully inconvenient this can be for some folks, depending on what they are wearing, especially if they are not staying long. – SnakeDoc Mar 29 at 16:03
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I personally would not use a sign as I would be ridiculed mercilessly by my friends for having it. Mostly because 'signs' are read as 'nags'. I usually ask and people remember. Non-verbally the 'Reinforce' is similar to what I do. I have a pile of shoes at the front door as a reminder. Though shoe racks hide shoes, and I want people to know. – jmathew Mar 29 at 17:27
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^ @jmathew is on the right track. Signs are good, if you are okay with being perceived as uptight. A direct visual reinforcement (a pile of shoes in the entry) is nearly as good and not as pushy. Putting the shoes in a rack of some type will create a barrier: people would rather just toss their shoes off on a mat. – plainclothes Mar 29 at 18:20
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@plainclothes. the article they removed 3 hours ago; conversionxl.com/how-to-use-priming-to-improve-ux . And yes, the point of this answer is "this mat primes your guests" - but that mat isn't priming because the message is explicit; it's directly instructing the reader to do something. Primes are implicit, or even subconscious. – PixelSnader Mar 30 at 20:03

It is not uncommon to take your shoes off in Europe (at least in the UK and Belgium where I've lived).

However, just sticking up a sign might be seen as rude / impersonal. If all else fails it's best just to ask people to take their shoes off. Assuming that your place is clean their shouldn't be any objections (unless they've got hole in their socks).

  1. As I commented, just wearing socks should often be enough (you could A/B test with colour/brightness for impact :)). Last week I was looking around a house to buy and we noticed that the owners weren't wearing shoes, so we automatically apologised and took our shoes off. So hopefully attentive guests should notice that you're not wearing shoes.

  2. You can line up your shoes that you've taken off by the door so that people notice the shoes. Something that is by the door is something that is typically taken off as you enter. People will be looking around at your hallway as they enter so they should spot them. You can also have a shoe rack by the door with empty slots for them to put their shoes in.

  3. you could actually offer people (machine washable) slippers as I believe it is custom in Japan to do.

    enter image description here This kind of makes something interesting about it - i.e.

    "we like to do things Japanese style here"

    rather than

    "we're foot cleanliness fetishists"

    This also might avoid the problem of people having holes in their socks as they can just hide them inside the slippers.

  4. Hard floors also help as the difference in noise between you in socks / slippers vs the loudness of shoes should be noticeable.

  5. If you're having a party, you might have to be blunt and just ask people, hopefully the pile of shoes at the door from all the guests should be a clue to the later arrivals.

  6. Also it seems that the common Japanese area where you remove your shoes is the 'genkan'. If you can make you're entrance look like that it should help even more. If you can add Japanese artwork to the walls that should also help.

enter image description here

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24  
Where in Europe would people ignore a request to remove their shoes, if asked to do so? Here in Germany, it would be considered extremely rude of a guest to not respect that wish... – rackandboneman Mar 29 at 12:51
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offering slippers can have hygiene drawback, i.e. the need to wash slippers very regularly in order to prevent mycosis spread. – Édouard Lopez Mar 29 at 13:34
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Machine Washable slippers? amazon.com/Sunshine-Code-Cotton-Washable-Slippers/dp/B0162X3KM8 – icc97 Mar 29 at 20:47
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Most people should be wearing socks and mycosis is spread mostly through bare skin contact. This could be a reason for buying open toed slippers to lower the areas where spores could grow. But to transfer the spores they would have to go through the socks of one person remain on the slipper and then go back through the socks of the next person. But on top of this you don't really mind if peoeple don't wear the slippers it's just a way of suggesting for people to take off their shoes. – icc97 Mar 30 at 9:41
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@ÉdouardLopez in the US, footwear rental establishments (bowling alleys, skating rinks, etc) solve this with antifungal spray, a similar approach would work here and be less resource intensive than full washing. – Jeff Meden Mar 30 at 15:56

Of course you can ask people, and of course you can put up a sign, but this is a UX question, not a . In an interaction design we wouldn't be happy putting up signs, or telling people how to behave: we want an environment that makes the desired behaviour automatic.

I can't think of any any way to force this absolutely, but I think we can get pretty close:

  • Clearly delineate the hallway (where shoes are allowed) and the living room (no shoes)
  • Cover your living room with deep, luxurious carpet. Keep this extremely clean.
  • Fill your hallway with wet mud. Make sure to spray it with water just before the guests arrive, so they really sink into it.

It's quite a length to go to, but short of pets and very absent-minded children, I can't think of anybody who would not be acutely aware of how dirty their feet are and looking around for at least a mat to wipe them. Of course, you do not provide a mat, but you do offer a little stool to sit down on, take your shoes off, and place them in a cabinet.

We can use this bacic idea and make it less extreme (and a little less effective). For instance, you could tile your hallway with the exact same paving stones they have just outside your door. This still reminds visitors that they are in a shoe-zone. The important thing, again, is not to offer a mat. Don't give them any way to undirty their shoes offer anything they need to take them off.

Further tips:

  • Place extremely dirty shoes in their eyeline to reinforce the idea that shoes are dirty.
  • Place little slippers just over the threshold to reinforce the idea, and make it inviting.
  • Have a pair of flip-flops or sandals that you put on for entering the hallway, so that the rule goes both ways: no socks in the hallway, no shoes in the living room.

I should note that if you actually do this people will think you are mad and stop visiting anyway, but if you really want to nudge people, this should be the most effective method.

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6  
+1 - I think this is a perfect example of what the UX people constantly blather about but rarely actually manage: The intuitive user interface. – davidbak Mar 31 at 20:49
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Joined UX just to upvote this answer. – Kim Apr 1 at 5:26

Start with subtle clues, slowly becoming more direct.

As is commonly advised to writers; show, don't tell.

People like making decisions on their own, but they also generally want to make others feel good. And especially in new environments and situations, we mimic. It's all about gradually going from subliminal cues to explicitly stating the intended outcome.


1 - Take off your own shoes.

If you're bringing guests to your home, take off your shoes first, and then your coat after. This gives your guests the time to see that you're taking your shoes off, and they can follow suit. People generally take off their coats first and then their shoes, so it might feel weird to do this order, but it also draws extra attention to the act.

If you're already at home wearing nothing but socks (well, hopefully a bit more..) you can't really take off your shoes, so skip this bit.


2 - Have a place for the shoes

Like others mentioned, having a shoe rack would be very beneficial. People see they that shoes are kept near the door, so they're likely put on/off near the door. They can then infer that they should do something with their shoes after using the door. As they're currently wearing shoes, the logical option is to take them off.


3 - Suggest where they can put their shoes

If you're not sure they've seen the rack, or if they're not preparing to take off their shoes, point the rack out, in a non-intrusive way.

"The coatrack is there, and you can put your shoes underneath"

This way they definitely know where to put their shoes if they decide to take them off. You're implying a link between hanging up a coat and taking off shoes. They're currently taking off coats, so perhaps take off the shoes too?

The phrasing here is important. When you say "you can do X" it still leaves the decision up to the guest. You're not telling them to do X, you're assuming they want to do X, and helping them do it. it's supportive and guiding, not instructive and authoritarian.


4 - Outright ask them. But be kind.

When they don't get any of the clues, ask them if they want to take of their shoes. Don't tell, ask. "would you mind taking off your shoes? I like to keep the house clean." It's still not authoritarian, but a request, still technically leaving the choice with your guest. But if they're nice people, they'll comply.

Because they're visiting your house, they'll likely act nice. They're probably there to connect closer with you, which doesn't work if they frustrate you. Second, it's your house, your rules, at least that's the social contract in most cultures.


5 - Put your foot down.

Oy bruv take them trainers off before I knock you in the gabber. I'mma screw you right up mate, loose the boots. Respect my authoritah!

enter image description here

I kid, I kid. Don't actually get aggressive.

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There's not nearly enough photos in this answer. Please extend it. – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 31 at 15:27

Here in the UK many expect shoes to come off at the door and visitors will ask if they should remove them. We change from shoes to slippers as soon as we get home. We have an area in our entrance with a Bench so everyone can sit and easily remove shoes. I have found that it's best to be open and keep things simple. If people don't ask them we just say that we don't wear shoes in the house and could they please take them off. Guest slippers would not work here, and I wouldn't wear them when visiting. We advise people that we are a shoes off house and ask they bring slippers or socks. Taking shoes off is second nature for me but not everyone was brought up to do it . i can't imagine wearing shoes in the house or on someone's lovely carpets.

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13  
While I agree with this, I reckomend refraining from using the wording "We don't wear shoes in this house.", it comes across as being cold/creepy. Something like "Would you mind taking your shoes off?" is much more inviting. – Pharap Mar 30 at 7:17
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It's true, in the UK people just ask, and people do it. We're not a shoes off house (lived too long in dodgy rented places where the floor threatens you, not vice versa that it became a habit). But I'd not blink if someone asked me to take them off or not to step on this or that in shoes. Maybe it's 50/50? For a country which is almost never direct in anything, it's just occurred to me that this is quite remarkable. – Dan Sheppard Mar 30 at 20:55
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@Pharap The answer says "We don't wear shoes in the house", not "... in this house." I still prefer your phrasing, but "We don't wear shoes in the house" sounds a lot less obnoxious to my (British) ears than "We don't wear shoes in this house." – David Richerby Mar 31 at 3:27
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I can't imagine "We don't wear shoes in this house" being said in anything but a Hyacinth Bucket voice – user568458 Mar 31 at 21:18
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@DavidRicherby Still sounds a bit like something Hyacinth Bucket might say. The use of "we" is too easily misconstrued as uninviting or as suggesting a clear division between 'we' and 'you'. Also you're not technically asking them to take their shoes off, you're attempting to imply that they should remove their shoes, which may go over some people's heads or lead some c̶h̶e̶e̶k̶y̶ ̶s̶o̶d̶s̶ people to pretend they don't understand what you're trying to imply. – Pharap Apr 1 at 11:20

Why not just ask your guests to take off their shoes as they come in?

  • Unlike a sign, it can't be interpreted as being pushy. At least in my experience, I've never felt that someone asking me to take off my shoes is being uptight, and I've never seen or heard of someone being annoyed by being asked to take off their shoes.
  • I don't think I would pick up the hint if you had a shoe rack or were wearing brightly colored socks. Instead of thinking, "I should put my shoes in the rack," or, "I should be in socks myself," I would think, "Édouard Lopez uses a shoe rack and likes to wear brightly colored socks. Good for him, and I'll do what I'm comfortable with."
  • Asking people to take off their shoes is direct, polite, and impossible to misinterpret.

There really isn't any UI magic in this answer. But I think maybe the simplest answer is best in this particular case.

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Set a white, clean blanket in the floor, and leave your shoes (a couple pairs) just before stepping on it as a demonstration.
This should make your visitors worry about stepping on such a clean surface and imagine the solution.
Anyway, be ready to handle cases of people that will not understand without getting upset.

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Wow, this is great. A bright white mat will draw the eye in contrast to the (maybe) cluttered, (typically) dark surroundings of an entry. Put a couple pairs of shoes on it like "salting" a tip jar. Have a place to sit down before crossing the great white barrier. Heck, turn a solid white hallway runner sideways to really drive home the boundary of cleanliness concept. – Zach Mierzejewski Apr 1 at 3:01

As I can't comment, I had to answer as a solution.

As a French, I would also suggest to just tell people right away if you don't see them taking their shoes off as some people can miss cues, as Alex has suggested.

And you can be pretty blunt about it. While Pharap is right that you can be more engaging, you can also be very direct with French people (1) we don't consider that as rude, I am living in the UK at the moment and I am well aware that directness can be perceived as rude, but not particularly by most in France.

We can perceive things as rude, but: 'Pourriez-vous retirer vos chaussures, s'il vous plait' should not. And thanks them afterwards. (2)

Oddly, I would personally perceive the sign/doormat proposed by Midas as rude. I would not mind it too much if you are a teacher or a health worker or such a profession that you are used to give orders to people all the time (as I would see that as a by-product of your profession, but then I would also consider that you are a pretty rigid person or you have a weird sense of humour).

BTW, it is pretty common in France to not wear shoes at home - that is the case of most of my friends living in flats. However, the guest policy can be a little bit more flexible. In houses, it is a little bit more fuzzy as well. Most of the newer constructions are usually divided into a 'day' and a 'night' part. And a lot of people (but not all) would allow their guests to keep their shoes on as long as the guests stay in the day part.

This said, not wearing shoes yourself, should be a great cue by itself. Having some shoes in the entrance and slippers will also be another cue. If you are fond of carpet, one with longer threads and with light tones should bring 80% of your guests ask you if you want them to take their shoes off.

One main reason, that some people might try to play dumb would be that they might be ashamed of showing their feet or socks. If you have slippers around that should not be a problem anymore.

If you have wooden floor, you can also have 'patins' (I tried to find an English equivalent but didn't manage to). You usually see this in old fashion houses, but people should recognise them right away patin

Basically, you keep your shoes, but you need to keep them on those 'patins'. I find them very annoying and I usually ask if I can take my shoes off and sometimes I am answered by the host that they prefer me to keep the shoes and the patins.


(1) However, they would be some categories of people that as a French you wouldn't really ask to take their shoes off if you don't already have a close relationship: these people would include older people, particularly the parents and grand-parents of your girlfriend/boyfriend, your boss and their family. Nonetheless, most of them would propose themselves to take their shoes off.

(2) As a rule of thumb, if you try to be nice, have an engaging tone and don't forget to say 'Bonjour/Bonsoir', 'S'il vous/te plait' et 'Merci' you should not be perceived as rude. (This is also true for cafés, restaurants or markets.)

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What are "patins"? Google (images) seems to think they're rollerblades. Are they like coasters for your feet, so you have to "shuffle" around so they don't get left behind? Or are they like soft cloth overshoes, to go in between your shoes and the floors, kind of like a "whole shoe sock"? – Xen2050 Apr 2 at 12:55
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@Xen2050 so 'patins' can be rollerblades but they also can indeed be coasters for you feet as you said and you have to shuffle them. :( They look like slippers without the top part. You can't "wear" them, you can just push them around. The mother of one of my friends has this habit of waxing her living room parquet every Saturday, so if it happened that I was visiting that day I was always requested to use those: for several reasons: 1) To avoid to dirty my socks if there was wax left,2) to not slip 3) to not dirty their parquet with my shoes, and 4) to help with the polishing process. – Mitra Apr 3 at 13:30

My home is a shoe-free zone as well. Our family uses a shoe rack and our guests typically leave their shoes in a pile next to whatever shoes we used that day.

Whenever we'll having groups of people over we tell them in advance, "...oh and by the way we're a shoe-free home just so you're not thrown off we when you see the big pile of shoes by the door".

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I'd give a try of placing a shoe cabinet straight against the door (of the hallway size allows that, of course) so that you'd have to pass by its side on entrance.

In this case, the shoe cabinet would act as a barrier on the entry and would naturally remind of itself by stopping the natural pathway course.

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