When I began my UXD masters at Kent, the concept of affordances was totally new to me… though I supposed I should say the name was new, not the concept. But knowing the name of a thing gives us more power over that thing, right? Affordances remain one of the most fascinating parts of UXD/IxD for me, because I’ve interacted with them my whole life.

Affordances exist in nature. As a species, we’ve interacted with them since the beginning. In fact, every species has…

One example from our readings was a cliff’s edge.

“When we see the brink of a cliff right in front of us we directly recognize that it affords falling off and immediate action (or inaction) is needed to avoid the danger” (source).

But affordances can also be designed into objects so that the objects are simpler for a person to learn how to use. For this, our reading used the example of a Holmes stereoscope.

The handle lets us know that we are probably meant to grab the object. The positioning of the image and the contour of the viewing area lets us know that we’re probably supposed to put this thing over our faces, with the nose fitting into the bottom slot. And trying this out, we receive feedback via the merging of the two images before our eyes that we have been successful.

This week, I’m going to think about ways I can use affordances in my app design. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here, so I will probably focus on standard good design practices for apps. (1) Making the menu easy to locate, (2) making navigation intuitive (aka, based on how other apps usually work) and (3) structuring the information in a logical way. Already I know I want to rework my calendar so the affordances are more obvious… and I’m going to need to research and experiment with app calendars to find what’s best.

I know I’m only scratching the surface of what affordances are in this post. I highly recommend the documentary “Design is One,” which shows the masters at work, breaking down design to its most basic components. The Vignelli’s directly speak to the concept of affordances, though I can’t remember if they use the term or not.

Note: This blog was written during IxD week 4.


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