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From afford +‎ -ance; coined in 1977 by psychologist James J. Gibson, and adopted in 1988 by Donald Norman in the context of human-machine interaction.


affordance (plural affordances)

  1. Anything that is provided or furnished by an environment to an organism dwelling within it, whether good or bad.
  2. (human-machine interaction) A potential transaction or operation that is made possible by a given object or environment; especially, one that is made easily discoverable.
  3. (graphical user interface, by extension) Any interactive control or component serving as a cue to the user to take some action.
    The grab handles on the edges of this image are affordances that the user can exploit to change the size of the image.
    • 1988, Donald A. Norman, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Things”, in The Design of Everyday Things, New York: Basic Books:
      Affordances provide strong clues to the operations of things. Plates are for pushing. Knobs are for turning. Slots are for inserting things into. Balls are for throwing or bouncing. When affordances are taken advantage of, the user knows what to do by just looking: no pictures, label, or instruction is required.

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