Day#322: Affordances in UX

Day#322: Affordances in UX

Hey Researchers and Designers I’m writing this post a little ahead of time, it’s a little cloudy here in Johannesburg and oh so quiet. My home city is one which people flee from in December haha, whether people are wealthy or not stand stands to question but a lot of people either do local or international holidays this time of year. My husband and I are home, we like being home it’s comforting and relaxing for me to catch up on reading and playing with my pets instead of going on holiday at this time of year where everything is so busy. I am working on a few posts with my goals and ideas for 2020, and look forward to sharing them with you soon. For now I want to talk about Affordances..

In 1979 James Gibson wrote about affordances and it was later in 1988 that Don Norman wrote about a different version of affordances in his book “The Design of Everyday Things”. To me the word was confusing at first, because I associate it with affording something. Where as in this context it simply relates to the ability for you to see hints about the functionality of a products use. This can be a physical product which looks a certain way so that you know how to use it. Take a door that has a flat surface, to a door that has a handle. How do you know what to do? Well the one with the flat surface would be the push and you would simply place your hand on it and press, where as the one with the handle you would pull right? Is that enough, to be honest I actually get confused in those situations as well, just because something has a handle does not mean it should be pulled. At some point that same door will need to be pushed, so there probably needs to be more affordances to help you make the right action. 
I often think of affordances as something simple, but even from the example above it seems apparent to me that affordances can potentially be multi layered. You may need to have extra affordances for people with disabilities or learning impairments. Let’s talk about some characteristics that make up the general affordances that we see, visual cues like icons and using semiotics can help people understand things better. Think the symbols on bathroom doors, and road signs. Colour can also help us understand something better, for this think about robots. And for those wondering I mean traffic lights, here in South Africa we proudly call them robots haha! We can also use words to help users understand things better, and here we can use the example of a button on an App saying click here or save changes. I used a digital reference at the end but that is not to say the other options can’t be visible on digital products as well, we all know colour and icons are used a lot on mobile and online products to help users gravitate towards the end goal better. I think dark patterns can tie into this very closely, if you want to know more, you can check out my post on dark patterns it’s an old one but still interesting in the thoughts behind it. Basically as the creator of the experience you have the option to manipulate a user. You can help them come to their own decisions and conclusions or you can slowly create an environment that influences their behavior through affordances that are in favor of the product you are trying to sell. I will leave you with that, it is up to you to figure out your experience, and what type of Uxer you want to be. If you don’t know the consequences of what you creating that’s why we test things, and put them under the microscope. Happy researching until next time Uxers.

Bye for now

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