Affordances In Product Architecture: Linking Technical Functions And User Tasks
Winner of the IDETC/CIE 2005 ASME 2005 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference Best Paper Award.
Developing usable and desirable products requires an understanding of how users build close relationships with objects and how these relationships can be controlled by developers. This paper discusses the importance of the concept of affordances as an instrument useful for understanding the relationships between technical functions and user tasks. The approach introduces a Function-Task Design Matrix to link technical functions with user tasks and to capture relevant affordance-level requirements throughout the product architecture generation. Functional and Operational Affordance levels are introduced to help determine the product attributes necessary to optimize the ease with which users can undertake technical functions. The paper uses functional language, focusing attention towards the use of the product, rather then merely its workings. The tools for describing affordances are described first, followed by a step-by-step description of how they can be used to improve decisions during product architecture generation. The mechanism is illustrated in a case study on a kitchen appliance.