I liked Matt Gemmell’s take on iOS 7. The point that lingered with me was his take on traditional cues for affordance, suggesting they’re a design vestige:
In the field of user experience, there’s a huge and unhelpful overemphasis on similarity, familiarity, and the ability to formally reason about interfaces. People are more nuanced. We respond based not only on experience or reason, but also on emotion and intuition.
Too many interfaces run immediately to the well-worn toolbox of simulation and explicitness, imposing a cognitive straitjacket not only on the user, but also the designer. We too easily forget that the only thing that matters to people are their goals: their own tasks, and content. With limited attention, we want to devote our focus to what’s important, rather than distractions and artifice masquerading as design traditions.
I can’t say I fully agree. If affordance were a color, I’d saturate everything with it.
Although a takeaway from mid-century psychology, I think it maps nicely to understanding online spaces. A distillation of one of Roger Barker’s early insights, from “Our Town“:
The repercussions for psychology seemed profound: if you wanted to know how people were behaving, it was less important to know who they were than where they were. An individual’s emotions, motivations, and life history were secondary to his or her location. A school wasn’t just some classsrooms and a gym, but a context whose physical layout and social forces shaped — or, in Barker’s stronger langauge, “coerced” — the actions of the students.
This is currently my favorite thought narrative:
The number of individuals who know how to make a can of Coke is zero. The number of individual nations that could produce a can of Coke is zero. This famously American product is not American at all. Invention and creation is something we are all in together. Modern tool chains are so long and complex that they bind us into one people and one planet. They are not only chains of tools, they are also chains of minds: local and foreign, ancient and modern, living and dead — the result of disparate invention and intelligence distributed over time and space.
A condensed description of Quora’s design approach.
For Quora, [design] means designing for whys (the product) and taking the most straightforward route possible for the hows (the interactions).
The hows are then driven by the answers to the whys—after all, why a user must enter a flow dictates how they progress through it.