An **affordance** is a result which you offer someone through an interaction with your product. A **signifier** helps your user understand the affordances which you are offering. ### Discussion The use and definition of the words "Affordance" and "Signifier" can be a point of contention amongst software designers, product managers, and design generalists. We offer an explicit distinction between them not to be contentious, but to help [[Draw Clean Lines]] through the roles of product management and design. We want our product managers to worry more about choosing the right affordances for our users and less about choosing the signifiers of those affordances, an area which good designers can be entirely [[Trust|entrusted]]. At the same time, we want our designers to understand that their job isn't to draw a button on the screen, but to offer the user an affordance. #### Distinguishing Between Affordances and Signifiers A simple heuristic to determine whether you're discussing an affordance or a signifier is as follows `If X affords Y then Y is an affordance` and `If X signifies the affordance Y, then X is a signifier`. Note that you must identify an affordance first in order to identify a signifier. #### Example The screen affords tapping the button, tapping the button affords exporting the data. The affordance we discuss when designing our software is exporting the data. Unless a *button* is specifically required to signify such an affordance, we don't bother prescribing it (for example it's too prescriptive for a pitch in [[Pitches]]). Apple's product management team on the other hand probably talks about the affordance of tapping on the screen. > How could designers describe what they were doing? There was no word that fit, so they took the closest existing word — affordance. Soon designers were saying such things as, “I put an affordance there,” to describe why they displayed a circle on the screen to indicate where the person should touch, whether by mouse or by finger. “No,” I said, “that is not an affordance. that is a way of communicating where the touch should be. You are communicating where to do the touching: the affordance of touching exists on the entire screen: you are trying to signify where the touch should take place. That’s not the same thing as saying what action is possible. - Don Norman, The Design Of Everyday Things ### Further Reading - [The Design Of Everyday Things](