External Cognition

Your constantly-updated definition of External Cognition and collection of topical content and literature
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What is External Cognition?

External cognition is the information processing that goes on between the internal cognition of the human mind and the perception and manipulation of its external representations. Making use of external cognition in the user flows of product design is one of several reasons why the products born out of some of the world's most successful companies feel easy to use and therefore result in a great user experience (ֱ). Many designs coming out of Google, Amazon and Airbnb exhibit the use of external cognition in their product experiences.

Literature on External Cognition

Here’s the entire ֱ literature on External Cognition by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about External Cognition

Take a deep dive into External Cognition with our course Affordances: Designing Intuitive User Interfaces .

Affordances are a key concept for designers. If you want to build products that are intuitive and easy to use, fully understanding the relationship between the human mind and technology is crucial. An “affordance” refers to the possibility of an action on an object; for instance, we say that an elevator button affords being pressed, and a chair affords being sat on. The concept was popularized by HCI (human-computer interaction) expert Don Norman in the late 1980s, and it has since played an essential role for user experience professionals and researchers. Understanding this term is essential for anyone who wants to get a deeper appreciation of what it means for a product to be “intuitive.”

Taking this course will teach you both the theory of affordances and also how to build instantly perceptible affordances into your own designs. Your users should be able to identify the actions afforded by a design with speed and accuracy. Thus, the better you can make your affordances, the more likely you will prevent the user from becoming frustrated (which can happen very quickly). In order to achieve this, you as a designer must appreciate how users perceive the world and how experience, context, culture, constraints and other factors affect our ability to detect the possibilities of actions on offer. This is at the heart of why those interested in a design career and established designers alike must gain a firm grounding in the meaning and potential application of affordances as a designer’s tool.

Throughout the course, we identify the major milestones in the evolution of the term “affordance” and outline how it applies to practical user experience (ֱ) design. Along the way, we look at the affordances of objects in the real world and screen-based interfaces so as to reinforce the concepts and principles covered in each lesson. You will soon realize how vital a solid grasp of affordances is—the name of the game is to make designs that users can take to naturally and without having to hesitate to ask themselves, “What happens if I do this?”.

All Literature

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