Affordances and Constraints

Affordances

Popplet has many different characteristics that are helpful for users- whether they are teachers, students, or professionals. The tool serves different purposes depending on who the user is and what they are aiming to accomplish through Popplet. For example, an elementary or middle school teacher has a different reason for using the tool than a project manager for a business. Popplet is simply a tool that aims to help people improve the way they brainstorming project ideas, tell stories, and explain concepts; therefore, it allows for a variety of different types of users to take advantage of what it offers.

In the picture below, you can see an example of how a teacher, likely an elementary or middle school teacher, used Popplet to explain the different parts that make up a plant and their characteristics. This is just one way that teachers have used Popplet to aid them with their lesson plans and make concepts easier for students to understand.

teacher user-plants

Students and professionals use popplet in the same type of way- they create popplets to teach their audience a concept or plan out project ideas they have.

Due to the nature of Popplet’s design, multiple users are able to collaborate in order to create the same popplet. This feature is great for students working together on a group project or coworkers/colleagues working together on a project; a popplet is not limited to just one author and one author only. The site also provides a gallery so that users can see and access other users’ popplets for inspiration, guidance, and also to learn about what others are sharing.

popplet gallery

Popplet also offers a free mobile app that is especially useful for on-the-go project planning and brainstorming ideas, which proves to be particularly useful for professionals who have long commutes to and from work. Below is just one simple example of a popplet that I created just to show how the mobile app works and how similar it is to the web version.

popplet app

Another affordance that Popplet offers is that it provides a helpful blog, which is called poppletrocks, so that users can discuss different ways that they use Popplet and suggest techniques that do or don’t work for them. This blog seems to be most useful for teachers and professionals and not as widely used by students, but since many of the users are teachers and professionals it is definitely a beneficial characteristic of Popplet.

 

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 11.56.45 PM

Constraints

While Popplet offers many affordances, unfortunately, there are also some constraints that come along with using the tool.

One major constraint is that Popplet only allows users to create a limited number of five popplets for free and then beyond those five, users either have to pay for access to create additional popplets or stop using the tool.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.18.46 PM

Although the monthly plan for unlimited popplets is only $3 per month, it is still a bit much to pay for a tool that is intended to help users brainstorm ideas and plan projects. However, if a user finds Popplet helpful for them, the unlimited monthly plan is not a bad idea; I just see it as a potential constraint for many people, especially college students who might use the tool.

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Another constraint that I encountered was that the site logged me out frequently when I was trying to use the tool and create popplets. I would often get interrupted with the screen shown below as I was trying to work through and learn how to use the site.

popplet log out screenshot

This screen and was very frustrating, especially because it occurred so often when I was using, or attempting to use the site. While I am not sure if it is just me that has encountered this problem or not, but regardless, this is definitely one element of the tool that needs to fixed so that users can freely access the site.

Affordance and Constraint

One characteristic of Popplet that I found to be both an affordance and a constraint is that it is intended for both the web and the iPad. In fact, many features of the tool work better on the iPad or mobile app. This characteristic can either be an affordance or a constraint, depending upon whether a given user has access to an iPad or smart phone device. Going along with that, if a user chooses to work on his or her popplets on both the web and an iPad or mobile device, the work cannot be transferred easily. What a user does on the iPad will not automatically appear on the user’s web account, which can be frustrating.

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