Appropriation User Experience (UX) topic overview/definition


Appropriation: Concept Definition

In a user experience (UX) design context, appropriation refers to the use of a product in a way not intended by the designer. This form of appropriation is generally considered positive, because it increases the ways in which a design can be used. An example of appropriation would be using newspapers as rags for cleaning windows.

Appropriation of a design for a new use is likely to create new sales and possibly even new markets for a product. Although designers cannot control when or how a design is appropriated by users, it is possible to create designs that encourage it. Human-Computer Interaction professor Alan Dix describes 7 guidelines for designing for appropriation:

  1. Allow for interpretation by leaving at least some parts of the system open for the user to determine how they should be used.
  2. Provide visibility by providing more information about a system’s state than you expect the user to require.
  3. Expose intentions: making the intentions for the use of a product clear to the user can help keep appropriation within acceptable limits.
  4. Support the user, don’t control what they can do.
  5. Plugability and configuration: design products so users are able to freely modify them.
  6. Encourage sharing within a community of users.
  7. Learn from appropriation: if you can discover how your designs are being appropriated, you can begin to adopt those appropriations into your designs.

For your convenience, we’ve collected all UX literature that deals with Appropriation. Here’s the full list: