Hidden push paddle

Recently I used a paper towel dispenser. It was straight forward to use, clear affordance1 to pull the paper down and tear to use and graphics to support this action. However, the paper teared inside the semi translucent covering, and there wasn’t enough room for my hand to pull the paper towel down further.

Black paper towel dispenser with blue paper towel hanging down
Black paper towel dispenser with blue paper towel hanging down. Photograph: Neil Dickinson

Luckily, there was another call-to-action – a push paddle for more paper, this was initially hidden behind the paper towel.

Black paper towel dispenser with Push paddle hiding behind the paper towel
The hidden Push paddle hiding behind the paper towel. Photograph: Neil Dickinson

This got me thinking, why was the paddle hidden, might it be better to have it on the side of the dispenser, clearly visible and the primary interaction with the dispenser.

You could do away with the graphics to pull the paper down altogether since this action lead to the paper tearing within the dispenser more than once during the times I used it. I assume this was also the born out in the user testing of the product, I suspect this was why the push paddle was added to the dispenser.

  1. An affordance is the possibility of an action on an object or environment.