Reflection Blog 3
In today’s session, our whole discussion was based on a term, “affordances”; which is not new to me but I was never clear what it meant. An American professor, Donald Arthur Norman introduced the designers to the concept of affordances in his book, “Design of Everyday Things”. This term is frequently talked about and is unfortunately misunderstood as it is a technical term encompassing more than just properties of a thing.
Affordance is a word that seems to appear in every design conversation. After today’s lecture, I was able to understand it better. Affordance is not either the property of the object or the user; it is perhaps the properties and capabilities of the object and the user in relation to each other. According to Don Norman, this is how one can decipher the multiple functionalities of an object. The concept of affordance is to let people use objects with as little training as possible. For example, the doors imply visual cues and we instantly know how to push or pull to open them but some might require us to think for a while to comprehend their working. This is because of how the door is designed and what affordance does it have. If we have two doors in front of us, one with a handle and one with a flat metal plate; we will naturally understand to pull and push them respectively since, we are much familiar with the role of knobs and handles and its easier to pull something we grasped rather than pushing it; whereas, the flat metal plate practically matches the breadth of our body and allows us to unconsciously put our body weight on it to push. The same goes for the handle of a teacup. Therefore, affordance can be interpreted as the visual cue to the intended purpose of the object. This understanding takes me back to the previous session and makes a connection with the statement, “good design is often invisible”.
Affordance can be classified into various types. A False affordance refers to when an object gives wrong cues and tricks a user to do something that is not supposed to be done. E.g. there’s a button in my hair iron that has no functionality and I often press it unconsciously rather than sliding the actual button beside it. Even the options that appear beveled on ATMs’ screens gives the impression of pressing and often mislead people to press them without realizing that the actual physical buttons are at the right.
Hidden affordance is when the use of the object is not obvious and the user has to rely on trial and error to identify the working. For example, the sensor taps or the use of shoes to open bottles or even the hidden affordance of one bottle to open the other. However, perceived affordance is the property of the object and the action; the user perceives it as possible based on it. E.g. the desktop and interfaces are perceived affordances; they’re virtual and intangible but still interacts with the user. The fun activity after the lecture also proved to be helpful to understand each term better.
Also, I believe that human conditioning has a great impact on affordances. A person in a different society must be conditioned and informed differently from the one in the other. Therefore, here research plays a vital role and the designer must be well-aware of his/her targeted audience.