Articulating Interactions I

‘Interaction Frogger’ by Wensveen (2004) and ‘Design of Everday Things’ by Norman (1988)

Wensveen’s ‘Interaction Frogger’

We identify six aspects of action and function i.e. time, location, direction, modality, dynamics and expression. When action and function are unified on each of these aspects, they appear naturally coupled. (Wensveen, pp. 1)

The wine opener

This “device” is something most of us have in our home, or at least it is in Denmark. I always thought it resembled a little guy a bit, with the arms going up, which is probably why I’ve always liked it.

In this device, there is no augmented or inherent feedforward whatsoever, and it can be very difficult to work out what to do, as the bottle opener itself looks very complex — Especially since the head of the wine opener doesn’t really look like something that is supposed to be twisted. It has no characteristics to a normal bottlecap with an embossed surface, instead it has a hole in the middle. But it can be argued, that the arms has the functional feedforward of feeling the urge to press them down, when they pop up, but that doesn’t occur until mid-interaction.

There is functional feedback, as the user can see the ‘spear’ cut down into the cork and subsequently as the user can see the cork coming up from the bottle as he presses down the arms.

The time it takes from interacting with the wine opener and til it starts opening the wine is immediate with no delay. And also the location is immediate, as the wine opener can only be interacted with while touching it.

Using the wine opener you turn the ‘head’ in the clockwise direction to dive into the cork and counter-clockwise if you want to twist it back out. This seems intuitive, as it is also how you twist a normal bottle cap.

There’s a direct link between the product’s reaction and the user’s action when using the wine opener. The dynamics are closely link, as when you turn the head of the opener fast, it cuts into the cork fast, and if you press down the arms slowly, the cork will come up slowly.

The modality is coherent, as the wine opener feels like metal, and is an actual kind of metal — it also ‘works’ like a metal as it cuts into the cork.

Closely related to the dynamics, the expression “of the reaction is a reflection of the expression of the action.” (Wensveen, pp. 3) If the user doesn’t make an effort using the wine opener, it can result in cutting the cork in the wrong way, and it might break in half and be even more difficult to get out of the bottle neck.

The microwave

This microwave is mechanic in its interaction(?) as it has no digital display or anything else digitally close. The microwave has two wheels that decide the temperature of the heating and the time set to heat.

When the user turns the wheels of the microwave there is no functional feedback of any form. Instead when the user closes the microwave door, it starts automatically if the user has turned the “timer”-wheel up to something other than zero. But there is inherent feedback, as the wheels that look like they can be turned, actually can be turned. The feedforward mostly consists of augmented feedforward in the signage of the two wheels signalling “time” and “temperature”.

Given as there’s no feedback, the time aspect of Frogger’s analysis is also delayed. As the user turns the wheel nothing really happens until the door is closed. So the action is delayed, and if the user didn’t know what they were doing, they wouldn’t see the result before later in the process.

The location of both the product’s reaction and the user’s action are taking place at the same spot, at the microwave. The user cannot use the microwave without touching it.

Looking at the direction of the interaction, both of the wheels are meant to be turned clockwise. This seems intuitive, as it’s how most wheel-based interactions work, such as the volume wheel on a stereo. Especially when the product’s reaction is related to 0–100, such as amount of minutes and degrees of temperature it fits with a wheel-based interaction.

Since there is no immediate feedback, the dynamics of the interaction cannot be coupled with the product’s reaction.

When it comes to modality, there is no sound when the wheels are turned which results in there being no particular sensory experience. The wheel is plastic, and it’s a smooth sensation turning the wheels, no ‘clicks’ or any other feel-related sensation either.

The last bit of Frogger’s interaction text refers to expression, and the example in the text is when the user is in a hurry, the interaction can be more sluggish than it would be otherwise. In relation to the microwave, I think it’s very difficult to be sluggish in turning the wheels, as they can only turn one way. But it is very possible to turn to the wrong time or temperature if the user is in a big hurry, which can in turn ruin the food.

Using Norman’s ‘Design of Everyday Things’ to analyse everyday objects

Design is concerned with how things work, how they are controlled, and the nature of the interaction between people and technology. When done well, the results are brilliant, pleasurable products. When done badly, the products are unusable, leading to great frustration and irritation. (‘Design of Everyday Things, Norman: 5)

The wine opener

The discoverability of this object is complicated to determine. The head of the wine opener is not designed as a classic twist-based interaction, but maybe the ‘spear’ in the bottom implies a twisting motion. This leads to the understanding of the product to be equally dubious. Which in turn can jeopardise the user’s conceptual model.

Even though it’s difficult to discover what the user is supposed to do, the head of the wine opener affords turning it around. The arms of the opener has a clear affordance of pressing them down once they pop up after twisting into the cork.

For signifiers, the head is supposedly meant to signify an action possibility of turning, even though it is not a conventional form.

In terms of constraints, a constraint of the wine opener could have been to turn the head the ‘wrong’ way when it comes to screwing it down into the cork, as turning it upwards has no intended function.

For fluent interaction feedback must be:
Immediate — no delay
Informative — reveal what happened
Interpretable — understand what happened
Appropriate — take situation into account
Prioritized — most important first _____(notes from class)

There is immediate feedback as when the user uses the wine opener, the screw visibibly twists into the cork at the same speed as the user twists the head.

The microwave

In terms of discoverability, the microwave has only two very obvious wheels to interact with. When opening the microwave door, there is a space with a glass place that implies ‘you should place your food here’.

The handle to open the microwave door affords first touching by having the tiny dots, and then pulling, as the user can place fingers behind it. The wheels afford turning by having the grab-able ‘handle’ only able to turn clockwise or counter-clockwise.

There are thorough signifiers on the microwave as both wheels are labelled, and the bottom wheel even has double-labelling for de-frosting.

The constraints of the object is mainly the physical constraint of the inability to turn the wheels to ‘negative amounts’ such as negative time or negative temperature.

There is a limited amount of feedback, as the user can’t really tell what time or temperature has been set other than by looking at the wheels. The lack of a display is a lack of informative feedback, as many other microwaves have displays to show the exact information before beginning it.


  • Wensveen, Djajadiningrat, & Overbeeke,. (2004). Interaction Frogger: A Design Framework to Couple Action and Function through Feedback and Feedforward.
  • Norman, D. & Norman, D. (1988). The Design of Everyday Things (1st ed.).