Adding affordances to your Ux

So, what are affordances? An affordance is a possibility of an action on an object.

These are examples of physical affordances we take for granted. They make it easier to avoid user error and confusion. Hat tip to Don Norman who taught us this via his masterpiece – The Design of Everyday Things.

Affordances are everywhere – we just don’t notice them when they’re working well. But, they’re evident when they don’t work.

One such place I was hoping for an affordance was with the new, free Microsoft OneNote. I swear by OneNote and have done so for a decade now. Every year, or so it seems, I write at least one post on this blog professing my love.

The one challenge with OneNote is that collaboration on it has never really worked easily for me. But, I thought that might change in the new, free version that comes with Windows 10 which syncs seamlessly with OneNote.com and the mobile apps. It really is beautiful and has been a game changer for me.

However, I’m still not sure how the sharing system should work.

The current issue is that trying to click on the “Anyone with the view link” or “View” simply tells me that I have an option to “Stop Sharing.” That’s not enough. My general assumption is that I’ll be able to tweak the settings to be able to allow others to edit. This assumption comes from how the sharing button normally behaves on the web (read: Google Docs). But, I’m not sure if that applies here. A simple shortcut might be a tool tip or some breadcrumbs I can follow to an article that details sharing on OneNote.

Overall, I’m taking away 2 lessons from this experience:
1. Don’t assume your users will find your user experience intuitive. Make it easy for them to find help or ensure there are affordances to make it easy for them.
2. Users will only be committed to seeking help if you have an existing bank of goodwill or if they have invested heavily in using your tool. There are a collection of tools in my life – OneNote, Dropbox, my iPhone – which inspire a large amount of goodwill. So, if you’re not among them or are trying to build that goodwill, making users feel supportive takes on paramount importance.