Fingerprint affordances on touch screens

My colleague Martin Kačmar from Brno recently visited our Haarlem office. Apart from attending the terrific PhoneGap Day we couldn’t let this opportunity go by to show him some examples of what Holland is really like. Hence, a visit to the Zaanse Schans was arranged. During our tour through the outdoor museum we visited “Specerijenmolen De Huisman“, a mill which was used for grinding herbs and spices in the good old days (no, not that kind of herbs…).

Wooden barrels with screens in them

Touch screen in a wooden barrel at the Zaanse Schans museum (picture courtesy of Tekst & Uitleg)Inside the mill we stumbled across some wooden barrels with screens in them. I instantly recognized these barrels: they were created by Tekst & Uitleg, the neighbours from our previous office. While clicking through the wooden barrel-enclosed interface I spotted a very clever detail on the screen: a fingerprint affordance.

Three reasons why I loved them:

1. The fingerprints made it clear that it was a touch screen

The fingerprints made it immediately clear that the screen was a touch screen. Especially in this situation, where you have a screen in an unfamiliar setting (a wooden barrel) this is needed. More so when you take into account that the screen might still be playing a video started by a previous visitor.

2. The placing made clear what was clickable

Fingerprint affordances on touch screen at the Zaanse Schans museumThe fingerprints were placed on key navigation items, making it immediately clear that they could be clicked. This was very useful, as it wasn’t really clear what was clickable and what wasn’t if you would take away the fingerprints. This does not give you permission to serve mystery meat for navigation of course, but in this case it really helped the designers of Tekst & Uitleg to come up with a navigation that is really embedded in the content.

3. The fingerprints were done very subtly

The fingerprints were done subtly, without taking away attention from what was shown on the screen. At first I thought the screen was dirty with fingerprints from other visitors. These were not natural affordances like real fingerprints, but they really looked like it. It was as if the previous users showed me where I should click to see things happening on the screen.

All-in-all I really liked this solution. Compliments to Tekst & Uitleg for designing these fantastically fake fingerprints!


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  1. Hi Vincent,
    Leuk te horen! Ik hoop dat het jullie ook goed gaat. Op de Houtmarkt weer de nodige veranderingen. Zou leuk zijn elkaar weer eens te spreken.
    Hartelijke groeten,

  2. Dank, dank! :) En de mogelijkheden worden momenteel alleen maar uitgebreider; 3D animatie, film, interactieve 360 graden foto’s – alles nu hier onder één dak :) Als het goed is deze maand grand opening; reserveer alvast de 19e okt. maar voor een bezoek aan de A.Hofmanweg 5a :)

  3. It was very cool to see the barrels “in action” at the Zaanse schans. Great work Eric and Stefan :) I’ll see if we can make it on the 19th of October :)


  • How fake fingerprints help making touch screens clear: #ux #usability #affordances | October 2, 2012

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