Useful and Healthy Web Interaction

UX or User Experience

UX or user experience, is a great consideration when creating a website. User experience has been a tactic to improve websites and products since the 1950s (Nielsen). This term was coined by Don Norman, a worker at Apple Computer in 1993.

As technology began to advance and more websites were created, user experience became more popular and necessary in order to run an effective site. This is not a concept only in America, but in other countries as well. Many different countries, including the US, potentially account for foreign site visitors. If this is the case, then they must accommodate in any way they can so that their website is globally accessible.

Research Methods

When looking for the best possible user experience, research is a large part of the process. The Nielsen Norman Group does a great job explaining what steps one can take to find the best mode of data collection to ensure the best user experience.

The most common form of user experience research would be user testing. This can be completed in many different ways depending on what types of data the company/site owner is looking for. There are many types of testing such as moderated, which involves the company observing the participant as they navigate the website and giving their honest feedback. A few other testing options that are less intimidating would include unmoderated testing and recordings. There are many forms of research and this includes the categories of discover, explore, test, and listen.

Look

Looking at the discover option, this allows the site owner/company to find out what their users would potentially need, accommodating them before publishing the site and getting criticism later. This section can include field studies, diary studies, and competitive testing.

Explore

Explore is the process of understanding problems and addressing them before it gets too much negative attention (Nielsen). This section could warrant the creation of user personas and prototypes.

Test

Testing is what many people identify when it comes to user experience. As mentioned before, user testing is one of the most effective ways to find out what users find useful and what they need to navigate through a website properly without too much confusion. These tests can be completed moderated or unmoderated, over the phone, or as a recording.

Listen

Finally, listening to user surveys as well as what participants have to say through the research process in order to create the best website possible.

Affordances

When it comes to the overall testing, affordances are a large part of the testing process. Affordances are a feature or property of an object that can be interacted with, such as an “Add to Cart” button on a retailer website (Tubik). Affordances are a great portion of a website and how a user interacts with the site.

When a user or testing participant is looking through the site and in need of completing a specific task, affordances show what the user may be looking for. This includes menus, items, hyperlinks, etc. Anything that is assumed to be interactable is what the website needs. Although, there are problems that websites face when it comes to affordances.

Negative and False Affordances

There are two different types of affordances that aren’t interactive, and these are negative and false affordances. While they both sound bad for a website, only one truly is. In the case of negative affordances, it simply shows the user that they cannot interact with it, such as figure 4 suggests. In this picture, it is shown that bedroom is interactable and all of the other rooms are not. The negative affordance is the lack of interaction with all of the other rooms that are not lit up. While this seems like a negative overall, negative affordances and false affordances are not on the same level.

False affordances are to be avoided at all costs. These can be found in various blogs and sometimes descriptions on websites. They can be found as underlined text that perhaps has a different color for the underline or highlight and it is supposed that it is a hyperlink. This is an example of a false affordance.

Overall, affordances are great for testing and provide a lot of information about what needs to be interacted with on a site and what does not. Although, affordances aren’t always a great thing when it comes to sites/apps and other types of technology.

The Vortex

Affordances can lead users down a vortex. A vortex is when a user begins interacting with a site/app for one reason, but then leads into many unplanned interactions (Nielsen). This is where affordances come in. As mentioned before, affordances are interactions that lead to another page that perhaps a user is looking for.

This becomes a problem when looking at apps and websites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc. These sites have an interface that is hyper-interactive, making it almost impossible to stop looking around the site.

In Facebook, there are articles and advertisements that are clickable almost every other post. With Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, the “like” button is on every post and is interactable, not to mention the endless scrolling feature. Notifications also play a role in this.

This allows users to get sucked into the vortex.

Humane Technology

When considering the vortex, users are hurting themselves mentally by focusing what’s on the screen and not what’s going on around them. When developing a site, it’s important to keep the user’s attention, but there is a point in which you are hindering the user. On the site Center for Humane Technology, they have an article discussing principles and how to identify the ways in which culture is changing and how to help along the way.

This includes understanding what humans do with technology and how to make it healthy or giving it in healthy doses. As an ever-growing technological world, we can’t get rid of technology or the internet; instead, focusing on how to make it less of a strain on humans’ lives and mental health.

Insight On How To Approach the Issue

Things that should be considered when in the process of creating a website is the well-being of the user. Whether this shows through their ability to navigate through the site or if they can ask for help if they need to. Also considering whether this will harm them is important to remember as well, as we all need the internet in order to communicate and thrive.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Hi Christine! I really like how you organized the information for this weeks blog, I felt that it was very well explained and the levels of headings made it simple to follow along. I understand the concept of the different affordances much better after reading your writing, especially negative and false affordances and how they can both mislead the user, but in different ways. I also found the concept of vortexes interesting, as I had not heard the word used in this context but it makes perfect sense. I believe that humane technology is very important for sites that create vortexes, and through further research I found a site specifically for the purpose of creating and spreading awareness about humane technology (https://www.humanetech.com/). This site has information about the problems that are caused and the ways they are trying to combat inhumane technology. Good job on this week’s blog!

  2. Hi Christine! The figures you included in this blog post and the way you incorporated them in the discussion was really well done. They served as good examples and supported what you argued well. I thought it was especially interesting when you mentioned the idea of a vortex in a website. It is always interesting to me that Instagram and Facebook were specifically designed so that users would spend as much time on the application as possible. This reminds me of Snapchat and how they added stories and the news panel so that users would spend more time watching videos/shows. These new affordances tend to lead to a vortex where the user watches more and more videos since they never run out. Here is an article about how Snapchat is deliberately addicting, which I think relates well to how certain affordances can lead to a vortex (https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-44640959).

  3. Hi Christine,
    Your blog post was very informative and helped me to understand more about User Experience and what it entails in today’s modern world. The visuals you used were very helpful in understanding the concepts you discussed, especially Figure 4, which is a great demonstration of a negative affordance. I tend to get the two terms mixed up a lot, but your post helped to make that distinction clear! I also thought that your post transitioned really well between ideas, helping to guide readers smoothly between ideas. The idea of the vortex is something that I have definitely experienced as I interface with various social media applications such as TikTok. There are so many affordances that it can feel extremely overwhelming, especially as a first-time user. I found an interesting article that summarized several types of affordances including pattern and metaphorical affordances (https://www.uxpin.com/studio/blog/affordances-user-interaction/). Pattern affordances rely on patterns that users are already familiar with on websites, such as a logo on a company’s website that takes the user back to the homepage when clicked. Keeping these familiar patterns in mind when designing a website could be a helpful way to be mindful of the vortex and what affordances are already familiar versus what might be more unfamiliar/harmful to a user’s experience on the website.

  4. Christine,
    I found this blog post very informative. I had never considered the aspect of affordances in a website before. I would have liked to see a bit more about these, especially negative and false affordances. As I understand it, a website may include negative affordances to, in a way, give a user the information that a certain section of the site is either not available for access or not required. I think this can be extremely useful as it would answer questions by providing the information that the information is not available. It seems counterproductive the way that I explained it, but overall I think it serves a specific function. I think the concept of the vortex can function in a way that both hurts and benefits a site. Obviously if a site is continuously encouraging navigation, it’s providing some sort of value to the user. The issue would arise, however, if a user is consistently navigating through a site but not in a way that they find beneficial or conducive to them finding what they are looking for. An example of this would be when a “clickbait” site advertises a list of the “top ten ________ things” and the user is forced to repeatedly click through to a new page for each item within the list. In this situation, for me at least, I find this kind of navigation annoying and often click away from the site entirely. The ending of your post mentions encouraging and exploring the wellbeing of the user in a website, and I found an interesting article that mentions possible aspects of the user situation to consider. https://uxdesign.cc/kind-uis-creating-interfaces-that-promote-user-wellbeing-4d392f826a20 I would suggest that, moving forward, you have all links in your blog post open in a new page, as often users will click on links with the intention of still remaining on the blog page they are on.

  5. This blog post is valuable by teaching us proper terminology about user experience and testing. While the word I am looking for is “affordance” I think I always use “feature” instead. I understand that they are the things people interact with on a website and a false affordance is when one of those features does not work. This seems so misleading to the user and I bet can even build distrust in the website as a whole. I think it is very valuable as well to understand that people can be lead down a rabbit hole if a website is not set up effectively. I feel like this is indicative of social media as a whole.

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