A Podcast on Affordances and Adaptive Interfaces with Justin Davis

Photo of Justin Davis
Justin Davis of Madera Labs

Justin Davis of Madera Labs is a great speaker and a lot of fun to talk with. I met Justin in 2010 in Lisbon Portugal, where we were both speaking at the UXLX conference.  I invited him to speak on a panel with me at the HCI conference in 2011. I think we talked non-stop for 5 hours one day at the conference. Most of that was just because we can’t stop talking about user experience and designing interfaces, but for a half hour we turned on the microphones and recorded an interview together. It’s a deep dive into affordances and adaptive interfaces.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on this link (30 minute podcast)

In this podcast we talk about:

What is an affordance 

Are affordances important on even something as mundane as a form (the answer is yes)

Have affordances been disappearing over time in interfaces?

Why it is a problem when affordances are missing

Is there a clash between visual design styling and human cognition

The 4 types of affordances — (we refer to the chart below in the podcast):

Chart about affordances

How thinking about affordances helps pay attention to the small things that are important but can be overlooked.

In addition to talking about affordances we talked about adaptive interactions – where the website/app changes based on the users’ actions, including:

Content based adaptation – change content on the page based on your past behavioral data

Content based filtering – change your interaction choices based on your past behavior

Collaborative filtering – change content and interaction based on what others have done who seem to like what you like

Interaction adaptation – the interface changes, not based on content consumption, but based on how you move through the interface.

What do you think? Are affordances important? What is the future of adaptive interfaces?

FYI — Justin’s twitter address is: @jwd2a


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3 Replies to “A Podcast on Affordances and Adaptive Interfaces with Justin Davis”

  1. Hi there, great Podcast.
    In answer for that comment asked in the podcast, I was a PC/Android kind of a guy, but after I got my hands on a apple product (IPAD) I changed my mind, at least on the Android aspect.
    The applications on the Ipad are more intuitive and simple most of the time, and I think that’s what users are looking for, ways to get things done not loosing much time on finding out how do things work.
    I did buy the Ipad because of Omnyfocus application at the beginning, It’s a really simple solution to get things done, where you can focus on a project and not getting distracted with other tasks.
    But Justin Davis is right, some applications appear to be more productive than they really are, very good looking and at the ending they don’t do what they should do.

    Other thing that also did make me change my mind in relation to android is the control that Apple seams to have on the security and performance of their applications. Android ones doesn’t have any security apparently, and most of the times they make the phone unstable, some times I want to take a photo and the application crashes and I need to reboot the phone, some times I want to answer a call and the phone goes possess and Id doesn’t allow me to answer.

    In relation to the 4 types of affordances, we adapt, we keep going forward, at the beginning we did see blue borders on pictures that ware telling us that that picture would open something (we would expect opening a bigger picture), now we don’t have the border, but still we expect that that picture would open something, I know that we do not have a visual indication that it will going to open something, but still we expect something.
    Like in this blog, we have the image of the affordances and It doesn’t have a border, and I didn’t mouse over it, and I was expecting to open that image in big.
    I do think that web(society) keep changing how user think and interact with objects.

    Tx for the podcast, and sorry about my English.

  2. Thank you for a good listen. Even if I didn’t agree with the current (mis-)usage of the concept of affordance it is still good to hear that there are well-intentioned people working in the field.
    A few things to add is that the diagram excellently explained by Justin Davis is actually from Bill Gavers 1991 article, Technology Affordances (http://www.lri.fr/~mbl/Stanford/CS477/papers/Gaver-CHI1991.pdf).
    It sometimes seems to me that the field (HCI, Interaction design, persuasive, ubiquitous or whatever) is still treading the same waters it did 20 years ago, but that is not for here to discuss.
    Another thing is that when you had the interesting discussion about “interaction adaptation” it kind of reminded me of the sixth principle in Activity Based Computing (http://www.activitybasedcomputing.com/WhatIsABC/Principles).
    But once again, thank you for a well done conversation on “tape”.

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