Dominik Lukeš

By Dominik Lukeš

Can we afford not to think about affordances? Usability lessons from the ecological psychology of design

I have a new post on the ALT site focusing on the concept of affordances. Here’s a quick excerpt:

We often throw the word affordance into conversation casually when we talk about what we can do with something. But this devalues a very powerful concept that can help us rethink how we design virtual learning experiences to be more accessible.

Affordance is the property of an object that allows the user to interact with it in order to achieve a particular goal without conscious deliberation. It is about the immediate moment of interaction and it allows for what has been called “directly meaningful perception”. But it is not straightforwardly a fixed feature of the object, it only really makes sense to talk about an affordance of something with respect to the object’s user’s needs and aims.

I also offer a quick literature survey on design and UX:

UX and HCI are vast arenas and it can be quite difficult to navigate. About Face by Alan Cooper and colleagues is a clear statement of some of the most important principles including affordances, idiomatic design, user research and personas (which Cooper introduced into the field). It contains many examples of useful and less useful design.

Of course, going back to Don Norman’s foundational book is also important although it focuses much less on digital design. Don Noman also leads an early MOOC on Udacity, now available on YouTube.

To get a sense of the depth of the field a browse through the monumental two volumes of Handbook of Human Computer Interaction may also be very useful.

However, some of the most up to date thinking about UX is happening on the web alongside books and academic articles. Here I would recommend the work of Jared SpoolJakob Nielsen (who runs a company together with Don Norman) and websites like UX Matters.

Alan Cooper et al. (2014) About face: the essentials of interaction design. Fourth edition. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley.

Nielsen, J. (1994) 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design, Nielsen Norman Group. Available at: (Accessed: 30 April 2020).

Norman, K. L. and Kirakowski, J. (2018) The Wiley handbook of human computer interaction. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley Blackwell (Ebook central).

Spool, J. (2005) ‘What Makes a Design Seem “Intuitive”?’, UX Articles by UIE, 10 January. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2020).

Spool, J. (2011) ‘Riding the Magic Escalator of Acquired Knowledge’, UX Articles by UIE, 2 November. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2020).


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