In 1988, Don Norman (a renowned cognitive scientist specialised in design and usability) published a fantastic book called “The design of everyday things” in which among other things he explains thoroughly what are known as “affordances”.

What are affordances?

The term was previously coined by the perceptual psychologist James J. Gibson, but Norman in his book gives an easier to grasp definition applied to everyday objects:

“… the perceived or actual properties of the thing, primarily those fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used… A chair affords (’is for’) support and therefore affords sitting. A chair can also be carried. Glass is for seeing through, and for breaking.” (Norman, 1988)

So there you go, applied to a door it would mean that just by looking at it, you would instantly know wheter you have to pull or push in order to open it.

On the other hand, a door that does exactly the opposite, ignores affordances and confuses people is ironically known as "a Norman door".

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