The typical symbols for operating lift doors are:

Door open: ◄ | ►

Door close: ► | ◄

Dewhurst door control buttons

More examples here.

They look confusingly similar, especially at times of emergency. Have you ever pressed the wrong button, closing the door on someone who is trying to get into the lift?

I am not sure if there is a certain ISO standard for lift door buttons, mandating everyone to use these symbols. But if there are none, how would you improve on the design of these door buttons?

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    I've never seen elevator doors with those buttons. Here in the USA, you typically see Close Door and Open Door buttons spelled out. – Code Maverick Jan 21 '14 at 3:45
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    I want to second this question by adding this observation of Jay Hori: Elevator buttons in Japan; pretty nasty design! – SNag Jan 21 '14 at 6:34
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    I think icons should different. I mean open should give more space, but close should squash us. I made a sketch 1.bp.blogspot.com/-u700jT5ZAn8/Ut4hwYUs5JI/AAAAAAAAAoI/… – nerkn Jan 21 '14 at 7:31
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    petesguide.com/symbols/elevator-button-symbols Take a look to this article. If you are really interested in thsi topic, this would be something for you – Michael Schmidt Jan 21 '14 at 11:55
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    I would go even further and ask why are two buttons necessary. I'm not sure, but the button to open the door probably is only to keep you entertained and does not do anything at all. – jff Jan 21 '14 at 12:51

I would add some clear reference to the doors. Something like that (bad and quickly sketched of course): enter image description here

That makes (at least for me) easier to understand what's going to happen when pressing them (by representing the state they are and the state they are going to be)

EDIT: Considering @Code Maverick's comment, that makes sense, another option would be:

enter image description here

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    You know, at first glance, you think that adding the door indicators would help things, but actually, I could see people not paying attention to the arrows and thinking the closed doors meant Close Door and the open doors meant Open Door, when in fact, it's the opposite. – Code Maverick Jan 21 '14 at 15:53
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    +1 for the edit. I think that makes more sense. The doors and the arrows agree. – Code Maverick Jan 21 '14 at 16:08
  • Ah, only one answer with + vote. I think the second option is good. – Question Overflow Jan 22 '14 at 14:37
  • I really agree with the second option because it represents the final state -- what the user wants. I would even go so far as to remove the arrows entirely. – Michael Butler Jan 27 '14 at 2:59
  • It may seem excessive but I'd a person or easily recognizable object between opened doors on the icon to match with the most frequent use case for "open" button. – Pavel Voronin Feb 1 '14 at 10:28

2 ways that clarifies the action of the door opening and closing, could be to use more elaborate arrows, and employing some colour association for closing: stop - red, and opening: go - green.

Please see crudely drawn example above: enter image description here

  • Contrary to the comment above, Elevators vary in time to auto close the doors when a floor is pressed, so believe it is still of value to the end user - providing they will actually follow through with the action! – IronBasset Jan 21 '14 at 16:39
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    Why do you say doors open means Go? It's the opposite. When the doors are open the elevator can't go. The buttons are for controlling the elevator not the traveller. The doors need to be closed in order for the lift to move. Also, red is used for the Emergency Stop buttons so your solution means there are now 2 red buttons in the elevator, causing confusion to the user. – JonW Jan 21 '14 at 21:07

Remove the close button. It serves no purpose as the door will close automatically when you push a floor number.

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    Sometimes the timing between pressing a floor number and the close door button is different. The close door button seems to close immediately whereas the floor number does not. – Code Maverick Jan 21 '14 at 16:06
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    Perhaps it does seem to although I have no idea if it actually does – user41321 Jan 21 '14 at 16:08
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    I used to live in apartment building with an excessively long timer for closing the doors automatically. Everyone in the place knew it and would immediately hit the "close" button after (or while!) selecting their floor. – cimmanon Jan 21 '14 at 17:46
  • Just because it serves no purpose, it doesn't mean it should be removed. I remember reading about a study which described exactly such a situation (I don't know if it was the close doors button or something else) - there was an outcry by users who wanted to have the button to push even if it didn't do anything. I don't remember the source, probably Predictably irrational or Freakonomics. But I have observed a similar behavior in my own users: they are vehemently opposed to not having a save button, even in an application which synchronizes automatically. – Rumi P. Jan 22 '14 at 11:49
  • Close door (and open door) buttons are used in fire service mode, where the doors are under manual control. They could possibly be locked behind a panel, but they are required by code (and the code might say something about locking them away). – cpast Mar 30 '17 at 5:29

I Think the design could be improve by simply adding the Label "OPEN"/"CLOSE" to the button.

In Automation when we have a system that can be open and close we simply have one button named "OPEN" and one button named "CLOSE", this is the best way to avoid the user to have to understand the icon or guess what it mean.

It is also a good UX design practice to always label the button.


There should be two buttons with "OPEN" and "CLOSE" written inside them. Any symbol could make confusion in emergency situations to some people. The more the symbols the more confusion in the world.


(Answer now with solution attempt)

In most elevators I've seen so far only the "open door" button exists. And in those elevators with both buttons, the "open door" button was next to the door.

I personally don't find them confusing. Based on own stress situations (someone running to the door trying to catch the lift in time while me figuring out the correct button to push to keep the door from closing) I think they are ok.

However maybe one button might be enough. Push to open the door when its closing (to let other people in) and push to close the door when its open:

enter image description here

If I want to interact with the door I don't have to decide which button to press any more since the logic of the system takes that decision off me (depending on the situation the door and I am in)

  • So your solution is 'I don't find them a problem so on that basis I don't think it can be improved'? – JonW Jan 21 '14 at 13:11
  • Counter question @JonW, why does the thread starter assume it is a problem? – uxfelix Jan 22 '14 at 8:43
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    It always takes me two-three seconds to find the right button whenever I step into a lift that I am not familiar with. It takes around the same time for the door to close completely. I don't think it is just me alone because I have seen people pressing the wrong button before. The one button solution is quite innovative, but might not work on impatient people who would press the door close button on compulsion even when it is already closing. – Question Overflow Jan 22 '14 at 14:48

I thinks this is very common problem which people neglects or forgets and dont care.

My Opinion on this problem: For easy to understand to all kind of people i prefer two options 1) Use Open and Close text buttons instead of icon buttons 2) Write text - 'open' and 'close' below of the icon atleast. it helps clarification of doubt.

Manufactures or who are design this board, i hope they are thinking about design look and feel or following their competitors ideas or taking inspirations from others to show to people attractive. In this case they might be forgetting about User Expereince- how many people understand their icons/ideas.

Unfortunately, people forget about this problem once they came out from the lift.

Better Experience in Movie Theaters i have seen: 'Exit' board above of the exit door with red light text. Easy to find out exit way even in emergency.

Some People converts their frustrating things to positive way to understand this is the best and this is from one of believed, top brand, most popular... by many people...blah blah...

I dont know who takes the care about these kind of issues

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    Text labels only? See here. (@SNag link in comment above) – uxfelix Jan 21 '14 at 6:53
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    Not everyone understands english. That's why visual communication is used. Text is a bad idea. – kBisla Jan 21 '14 at 10:53
  • Then see the second option, and change the country language instead of that. But i dont agree - who told text is a bad idea. – Pavan Kumar Jan 21 '14 at 12:56
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    This answer is completely opinion-based. This site is about getting factual, evidence-based answers from experts in the field of UX. – Dan Hulme Jan 21 '14 at 13:04

Lock and Unlock icon is fine, I thinkenter image description here

  • Can you expand on this answer? Why are lock and unlock symbols better? – Matt Obee Jan 21 '14 at 9:23
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    I'd never push a "lock" button in a elevator. Too scared to be stuck inside ^^" – Alex Jan 21 '14 at 9:35
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    I'm downvoting this because a)there is no reasoning at all and b) I can't ever imagine why you'd want to lock the doors on a lift when you're in it. – JonW Jan 21 '14 at 9:56
  • They look more like indicators than buttons, plus they do not look pushable to any capacity. – IronBasset Jan 21 '14 at 17:22

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