Ian - thanks for your insightful comments about affordance. I think the term has become very flexible in the last years and can serve us well in a variety of contexts, including web design. Cooper is still using this term for user interface design in the 3rd edition of “About Face” (2007), and he has truly shaped a lot of concepts we apply in interaction design.
It seems to me that Norman has considerably changed his position regarding the widespread use of the term “affordance”. While in the 90’s he regretted having created a “misnomer,” post-2000 he started to like the idea of a broader definition of affordance.
Interestingly, a newfound appreciation of semiotic discourse seems to have triggered this change of mind. In his essay “Design as Communication”:http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/design_as_comun.html , Norman shares his new view with much excitement:
[...] ??I decided that although the screen designer was not using the term appropriately in its pure sense, there was no other term to describe what the designer had done, so why not appropriate affordance for this purpose. Affordance is indeed close, and this is how language grows over time, adding new concepts, letting words expand or contract in meanings to fit the circumstances??.
[...] ??Once we start to view design as a form of communication between designer and the user, we see that perceived affordances become an important medium for that communication??.
[...] ??A similar communication happens in the virtual world of screen design??.
[...] ??By making certain regions of the screen take on perceptible, distinctive appearances, the designer is communication (sic!) the design intention??.
[...] ??Under this new view of design, designed affordances are communication devices, specifying the designer’s intentions to the audience??.
I like this semiotic approach to the concept of affordance, I think Roland Barthes would approve of it.
John - I had a feeling I would get a lot of criticism for choosing “English in Chester”:http://www.english-in-chester.co.uk/ as a poster child for accessible design that also looks good. While the other sites you are pointing to do a good job in showcasing universal design, I haven’t found any other site that does such a magnificent job implementing so many accessible design features that can be discovered right from the homepage. Have you checked out the audio option that highlights the text on the page while reading it out loud? The site also shows how to nicely present videos in different formats and with captions. The “high contrast version” is an important accessibility feature as well.
I know, you will still throw it back at me as a boring looking site. I looked at Nick’s more recent sites, e.g. “English UK North”:http://www.englishuknorth.com/ . You can clearly see he knows how to design “in 2.0,” but those sites don’t have any of the “cool” accessibility features. Not every client will focus on accessibility the same way.
I might try to find out from him how he approaches accessibility features, since their implementation is based on a lot of factors, such as client’s willingness to add to the budget, etc.