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Affordances: designing intuitive user interfaces

This course will teach you both the theory of affordances and also how to build instantly perceptible affordances into your own designs.

Short course Advanced Interface design

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What you’ll learn

  • What affordance is, and how to apply it to create intuitive and usable products
  • The role of affordance in Human-Computer Interaction
  • How to distinguish between real and perceived affordances and avoid usability problems in your designs
  • How to use concepts such as visibility, findability, constraints, mapping, feedback, and conceptual models to improve the usability of a product.

Affordances are a key concept for designers. If you want to build products that are intuitive and easy to use, fully understanding the relationship between the human mind and technology is crucial. An “affordance” refers to the possibility of an action on an object; for instance, we say that an elevator button affords being pressed, and a chair affords being sat on. The concept was popularized by HCI (human-computer interaction) expert Don Norman in the late 1980s, and it has since played an essential role for user experience professionals and researchers. Understanding this term is essential for anyone who wants to get a deeper appreciation of what it means for a product to be “intuitive.”

Taking this course will teach you both the theory of affordances and also how to build instantly perceptible affordances into your own designs. Your users should be able to identify the actions afforded by a design with speed and accuracy. Thus, the better you can make your affordances, the more likely you will prevent the user from becoming frustrated (which can happen very quickly). In order to achieve this, you as a designer must appreciate how users perceive the world and how experience, context, culture, constraints and other factors affect our ability to detect the possibilities of actions on offer. This is at the heart of why those interested in a design career and established designers alike must gain a firm grounding in the meaning and potential application of affordances as a designer’s tool.

Throughout the course, we identify the major milestones in the evolution of the term “affordance” and outline how it applies to practical user experience (UX) design. Along the way, we look at the affordances of objects in the real world and screen-based interfaces so as to reinforce the concepts and principles covered in each lesson. You will soon realize how vital a solid grasp of affordances is—the name of the game is to make designs that users can take to naturally and without having to hesitate to ask themselves, “What happens if I do this?”.

Course details

Institution
Interaction Design Foundation

Course type
Short course

Level
Advanced

Qualification
Certificate of completion

Length
15 hours over five weeks

Cost
£144/yr or £30/month


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