Raciti Designs User Experience Design Development

Affordance in UX Design: Don Norman


What are examples of affordances?

For example, a chair has the affordance of `sitting’, because of its shape, height and carrying capacity and humans have the ability to sit, enabling use the chair as prescribed. However the chair also affords standing on, blocking of, and holding of.

Scott Jenson, Project Lead for Physical Web (UX director@Apple/Symbian/frog/Google)

Answered 14 Feb 2011 · Upvoted by Lokesh Dhakar, UI Designer at Getaround

The term “affordance” was popularized by Don Norman in his book the “Design of Everyday things”. He has frequently talked about how this term has become quite popular and, unfortunately, misunderstood.

His followup blog post http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/afford… refines the term to “perceived affordance” which is more helpful as it gets to the heart of the issue: Do people know what to do based on what they see? To say a ‘chair affords sitting’ is kind of missing the point as chairs can do so many things. Besides, we are socialized to learn to sit in chairs. The design concept of affordance is to get people doing things with as little training as possible.

In UX design, a perceived affordance is a visual/physical cue that a) gets the users attention and b) implies a function. For example, you could have a large red square on the screen but if the user clicks it and nothing happens, it really hasn’t afforded anything. If it was meant to be dragged, instead of clicked, it needs to look/behave like it can be dragged. One solution (among many) would be to have the square ‘wiggle’ a bit when first coming on the screen to give you a clue that it you could drag it.

To specifically answer your question, classic examples of UX affordances would be buttons and scroll bars. However, that doesn’t mean they work perfectly. There is always a bit of a learning curve for new users to use scroll bars, as they experiment to understand everything about the many types of scrolling they can do.

I would go further and say that a ‘perceived affordance’ isn’t a simple attribute that you either have or you don’t. It’s a long, wide road of potential effectiveness. Just because object affords behavior doesn’t necessarily mean it affords it well, which, in my mind, cuts to the heart of great UX design.

Shaun O’Connell, Front-end Developer, Interaction Designer, Web Standards advocate

Answered 11 Feb 2011 · Upvoted by David Cole, Director of Design at Quora and Lokesh Dhakar, UI Designer at Getaround

Take a door that only opens in one direction…

If the door doesn’t have a handle, then it can’t be pulled – it is visually perceived to be push only. Push-plates improve upon this principle.

If the door has a fixed-handle, then it is asking to be grasped.

%d bloggers like this: