Affordance

Affordance a quality of an object, or an environment, that allows an individual to perform an action.

I’ve only just learnt what this is and I think I should have known about it long ago and it could/would/should have a lot to do with good interactive graphics, so I will re-visit this theme in the context of infographics in time.

But just to elaborate briefly on what affordance is all about, let me pass on the good product design example a colleague used to explain it to me: doors, and their handles.

There’s no need to write ‘push’ and ‘pull’ on doors. Put the handle on the side you have to pull to open – this suggests to the person approaching it that the action they need to perform is to hold the handle to pull the door open. Equally, by NOT putting a handle on the side that you have to push to open the only action you can perform is to push. No confusion. Makes sense.

But obviously if a designer, or subsequent label-wielding individual, is not aware of the subtlety of affordance it’s easy to mess things up. Rob Waller’s evidence file of dodgy affordances helps illustrate the levels of confusion that can arise.