Architectural skeuomorphism

Architectural skeuomorphism is seductive because we know how easy it is to navigate the real world and we feel like we should be able to replicate that in the digital world. This approach was common in the 90s, perhaps most infamously with Microsoft Bob, which attempted to make navigating applications easier by using the metaphor of a house:


As laughable as this seems now, if you do information architecture for any length of time, a stakeholder will eventually ask you for Microsoft Bob. “Why can’t I have my files in a filing cabinet and my contacts in a Rolodex on my desk? That would be a great IA!”

! Magic Desk I by Commodore

This happens more often than you would think, because it feels simple. Simple feels good. (At least the Magic Desk is a [[tabletop]].)

Apart from the many reasons why something like Microsoft Bob didn’t do well, it actually focuses on visual skeuomorphism while disregarding everything about how physical experiences work. Look at that picture again. How often are you in a family room that has two different doors to the study? On parallel walls no less? You can put doorknobs on things all you want, but everybody knows how rooms work.