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#21 - Affordance I - Intro

Author face
Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

Writing of the week

Imagine that you go to any building talking on your cell phone in peace, when you get to the door, bam, you bump into it; you haven't been able to open it and you think to yourself "What a fool I am, I'll never understand how these doors work".

Here we are presented with two scenarios: one of them, in which we are to blame for not being able to understand the functioning of the door in particular, and another, in which the design or signage of the door is not visible or we do not understand it, which of these statements is correct? People who have heard of the "Norman Doors" before will know perfectly well that the fault obviously lies with the designers.

There is a factor here that many of you will know about, the Affordance. Gibson (1977) and Norman (1988) are the forerunners of this term respectively, one taking it more to the natural world and the other to human-computer interaction, but both have a very similar basic idea, this being the capacity of interactive conception of an element with the environment, that is, the relationship between the characteristics of an element, medium or instrument, with the various possibilities of manipulation and action; or, in a more synthetic and mundane way, the capacity of an object to communicate how it is used (many more characteristics intervene such as socio-cultural factors, context of the element, experiences and previous knowledge of the user, needs... but if I want to make the texts short, I can’t explain everything ☹️)

This term as it is really understood is looking around us, what do you think has more affordance, a touch switch or an analogical one? an old wheel phone or a current one? a sliding door or some blinds? Well, you've guessed it, it depends.

In 1896, Louis Sullivan said a phrase that should be burned into our heads if we have in mind to make functional design, the form follows the function and that is directly related to the affordance.

In conclusion, we can say that the affordance of a typical push-pull door is quite low, while a cup has a high affordance, since the cognitive journey from the moment we see it until we act correctly with it is very fluid, just the opposite of the Norman Doors.

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