Last month I happened to meet two people who have different problems in using their iPhones. This is not the first time that people have asked me about iPhone’s hidden features though, it did make me think about what is behind this and what I can do about it.
The problems they reported were both related to the concept of affordance in product design. According to Donald Norman, the author of the book The Design of Everyday Things, affordance “refers to the perceived and actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used.”
For instance, a text box affords writing and a button affords clicking on a web form. You don’t need to provide instructions like “please fill in…” or “please click…”, and people will know what it’s about. This is how affordance can be illustrated in everyday life. In this article, I would love to share some problems my friends had met in their daily use of the iPhone and my thoughts on the application of affordance in design.