More than once, I've reached under a lampshade to turn on/off a light and had to a) search around hoping I didn't burn myself to find the switch and b) figure out which type of switch the lamp used before I could turn the light on. It would seem that pull switches eliminate both of those issues, safety and learnability concerns, yet I've encountered far fewer pull switches on table and standing lamps than push or twist.

Especially annoying are the twist switches that require multiple twists for the light to come on with no indication to the user of how many twists are required. Or push switches where you have to fumble around to figure out which side you need to interact with in order to turn on the light.

Pull switches are easy to find and easy to interact with, so why are they less common? Is there a solid UX reason that push and twist switches are more common?

Twist lamp switch Push through lamp switch Pull lamp switch

For the purposes of this question, I'm limiting the scope to just straight table lamps or standing lamps with the switch on the light bulb, not desk lamps or standing lamps with floor buttons because that introduces a lot more discussion.

  • The reason why you may have to twist the switch multiple times before the light comes on is because you have an ordinary bulb in a fixture that is meant to have a 3-way bulb. The switch would then go off -> low -> med -> high -> off
    – Stephen P
    Jun 6, 2014 at 17:41

1 Answer 1


Catastrophic Failure

If you twist a twist switch too far the lamp returns to an off state and you have to repeat your interaction. Annoying, but not dangerous.

If you push a push switch too hard you feel pain in your fingers encouraging you to stop. There is little risk of applying that force to the rest of the lamp since you generally grip the socket from both sides to press the button.

But, if you pull a pull cord too far the lamp is going to tip over unless it is properly secured. (Which is why they are acceptable to use on hanging ceiling fans and the like.) The socket with the switch is generally located above the center of gravity for the lamp, and a pull cord allows you to use leverage to pull a lamp down with less force than would normally be required.

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