The role of physical affordances in multifunctional mobile device design

Sorin Adam Matei, Anthony Faiola, David J. Wheatley, Tim Altom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


As designers of mobile/media-rich devices continue to incorporate more features/functionality, the evolution of interfaces will become more complex. Meanwhile, users cognitive models must be aligned with new device capabilities and corresponding physical affordances. In this paper, the authors argue that based on HCI design theory, users approach objects by building mental models starting with physical appearance. Findings suggest that users who embrace a device's multifunctionality are prevented from taking full advantage of an array of features due to an apparent cognitive constraint caused by a lack of physical controls. The authors submit that this problem stems from established mental models and past associated behaviors of both mobile and non-mobile interactive devices. In conclusion, users expressed a preference for immediate access and use of certain physical device controls within a multi-tasking environment, suggesting that as mobile computing becomes more prevalent, physical affordances in multifunctional devices may remain or increase in importance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-57
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Information Technology and Web Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Affordances
  • Cognitive models
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Interaction design
  • Media
  • Mobile devices
  • Multifunctionality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (all)


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