Skeuomorphism In Conversational Design –

How metaphors impact conversational experiences

Bret Brautigam wrote a thought provoking article on how adding a human voice to a computer could be a form of skeuomorphism. This idea made me wonder… Is any form of conversational design Skeuomorph to some extent?

The New Skeuomorphism is in Your Voice Assistant
Skeuomorphism is not

Before we start, let’s address the fat turkey in the room: what the hell is Skeuomorphism?

Simply put, Skeuomorphism is a fancy design term based on the simple idea of creating elements that resemble their real-world counterparts (switches etc). The first example that comes to mind is the old Apple Calendar UI:

A Skeumorph calendar interface — an imitation of the leather / paper calendar

You might wonder, how could anyone design such a hideous interface? Ok first of all, respect your elders! Keep in mind that there was a time when screens and touch interfaces weren’t second nature. At the time, using real world analogies could actually prove helpful to convey how an interface worked.

But eventually, all good things come to an end. As technology and people became more and more inseparable, flat design emerged.

Bye bye leather!

All of a sudden, Skeuomorphism wasn’t cool anymore. It became an embellishment. A boogeyman. A fat turkey we hid in our backyard, so no one would see it.

Will the same thing happen to Skeuomorphism in conversational interfaces?

Once technology merges with our bodies, sure, I can see it happen. But until then, we’re probably stuck babbling to our devices. So let’s look at how Skeuomorphism sneaks into conversational experiences and how it impacts the way we design them.

Author: Adrian Zumbrunnen

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