Uncanny collaboration

By Jeremiah Lee • May 2021

Digitizing analog experiences will result in a loss of quality.

Many companies currently are stuck with a digital imitation of meatspace collaboration. Attempts to recreate the way you worked when co-located to working remotely will feel familiar, but eventually inefficient and unnatural.

Remember skeuomorphism? Skeuomorphic design was a design trend that recreated analog user experiences on digital devices. This form of design helped early computer users transition to thinking about concepts once those concepts were freed from their physical constraints. However, the user interfaces from this era seem awkward to modern computer users who may not have ever used the physical forms.

Reason 11 user interface looks like the physical audio rack components

Source: Reason Studios

For example, some early digital audio apps recreated the knobs of the physical devices previously needed to produce a particular audio effect and the wiring between the pieces of equipment involved. Today, the user interface seems cluttered and unnatural to use with a mouse or touch screen.

“Skeuomorphic design seems to be preferred by older groups often referred to as digital immigrants while digital natives tend to favor flat design over skeuomorphisms.”

A Comparative Study of Skeuomorphic and Flat Design from a UX Perspective summary

People benefitted from something familiar to bridge their understanding of the old way of doing something and the new way of doing something. Well, congratulations! You are the first generation of remote workers. You will have to adapt. To succeed with remote work, a company must design a native experience that embraces the unique opportunities and constraints of this particular advancement.