iPad - Design without Affordance

I've now had a lot more experience with the iPad. I continue to thoroughly enjoy using it. However, I'm going through a similar experience that I went through (and blogged about here) with my iPhone initially. The experience is one of thinking that certain things just don't work only to learn later that there was a hidden user interface feature to carry out some action that the user had no way of knowing about. I had concluded that certain websites were simply not enabled for the iPad and I thought it weird that they hadn't done anything about the problems given the popularity of the iPad. For example, several parts of Facebook simply didn't work such as the list of friends. The problem was scrolling the list of friends. When I tried to swipe down on the list, the way you scroll down everywhere else on the device, the page would move slightly but the pop-up layer would move with it but the list of friends would stay put. Regular users of MacBooks would have a clue as to what to try to get this type of list to scroll but everyone else is left in the dark. I asked a number of other people about this and nobody that I found knew a way of scrolling lists like the ones on Facebook and we just assumed the site was not appropriately enabled for the iPad.

It was colleague of mine that finally clued me into the solution - the two finger swipe. I just tried it tonight and it worked! While I'm glad that I now know how to do something that is pretty basic on the iPad, it got me thinking about Apple's overall strategy of designing without affordances. The overall assumption is that the various touch actions are intuitive and, as a result, it is so much more efficient to not clutter screens with affordances like scroll bars. To Apple's credit, most of the touch actions are intuitive. However, the problem is the set of touch actions that are not intuitive and how users are supposed to find out about them. I admire Apple's commitment to its design principles for virtually all other aspects of the design of this device but that purity of adherence to the principles does have its costs and this is one of them.