Hold that elevator!

On a recent research trip I stayed at the Holiday Inn in downtown Fresno, CA. The hotel was unremarkably average — clean and functional, if a little worn around the edges (a little like Fresno itself). There was one thing that struck me as unique — the elevators; specifically, their buttons. I've been in quite a few elevators over the years, but this was a first for me. The elevators had 4 buttons to control the doors: Two to close and two to open the doors.

One guess is that this arrangement was the result of a mistake, extra holes were filled with extra buttons for an expedient solution.

But, I prefer to think that this arrangement was the result of a heated argument about the iconography of the buttons — one person preferred the versions with a central line, the other held their ground that the non-lined versions were clearer. After weeks of argument, they broke the stalemate with this solution, "Let the user decide!" As a user in this circumstance, I can only say "Ouch!" Trying to keep the door open for someone approaching was a painful experience, and don't get me started on the PB, PG & 2R buttons.

What do you all think? How did this happen? And have you seen examples of elevator madness? (If you have pictures, send them to me, and I'll collect the best in a follow-up post.)


I think I differ with you slightly in thinking that these are redundant buttons. I think they are not redundant but rather they offer more specific choices (ones you never knew you needed no doubt). <|> = Open when prudent - say at the next floor. <>> = Open right away, even if you are between floors - useful if you find yourself trapped in the elevator with an angry badger or a Tea Partier. >|< Close the door when prudent - so if someone sticks their hand in - reopen but otherwise I'd like to head off >< Close the doors now - dear God hurry, limbs be damned here comes that co-worker who loves dolphins and won't stop talking about how Scrum will change the world.
Jonas Elfström
Maybe not really madness but at Hotel Silken Diagonal in Barcelona there wasn't just up and down buttons outside the elevator. Instead you were supposed to enter the floor number of your destination. It seemed to confuse quite a few guests.
Braille text captions say "open" for both <> and <|>
Andrii Onofriychuk
I have almost the same elevator buttons at my office building, except theres 2 buttons to open the door and only one to close
Christian Baptiste
I always thought these buttons were not necessary. If I want the door to close faster, why not press my destination floor button again (maybe even two presses, like a double click). If I want to keep the door open, usually my focus is on someone trying to come in at the last minute thus I am much more capable of holding the door open than looking down to the panel, deciphering the buttons then pressing it. Usually by then the door started to close on the person trying to enter the elevator. One thing that gets me is elevators on the bottom floor that have both the up and the down arrows... Why the extra button? Same is true for the top floor. It amazes me how many elevators have this. Even more amazing is that in many cases the bottom arrow does nothing. Why is it there?
Peter Sheerin
Noah, I can tell you were in an elevator that had both front and rear doors. I had long wondered about these very buttons, but your posting prompted me to research the issue, and find the official specification for those symbols. Here's my take on this most confusing of issues: http://petesguide.com/2010/07/elevator-door-icon-confusion/ (blog posting/introduction) http://petesguide.com/symbols/elevator-button-symbols/ (the meat of the story) Enjoy!
Jonas Elfström
http://plea.se/pics/hiss.jpg - a picture of the panel for the elevator I mentioned above.
Niall O'Donovan
While not directly relating to buttons, I found this take on the standard "in the event of fire don't use the lift": http://www.assuredynamics.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/In-case-of-fire.jpg http://www.assuredynamics.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/In-case-of-fire-02.jpg Presumably no one used the lifts ;-)
Steven Hall
One building at the school I work in had two floors. It will only ever have two floors as it is in aconverted early 20th century wooden beamed light industrial building. Still, the elavator has a button for each floor (1 and 2). I think it would have been far more useful to have one button that reads "Other Floor".

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