This is part four of an eight-part design for communication series. This series is adapted from a master’s paper on the intersection of design and technology-mediated communication.

Designing for Psychological Closeness: Face-to-Face Communications a World Apart

Today we can develop and maintain relationships with friends and family even if they are on the other side of the world. Another TMC term, electronic propinquity, states the ability of a platform to convey multiple cue systems (verbal and non-verbal), provide more immediate feedback and be less complex increases how close we feel when communicating with someone via technology. The same “physical closeness or proximity generally associated with interpersonal involvement in face-to-face communication” can also be experienced through electronic media. (Walther) As designers, we can make decisions that help to recreate the same physical proximity of face-to-face communication through online communications.

There are two sides to the communication on online channels, there’s the human communication between two or more users, and the communication between the platform and the individual user. (McKay, 2013) The platforms best equipped to help facilitate human communication are those with a cohesive conversation between the individual and the platform (we spoke about this in part two). This is achieved by creating experiences and interfaces that are “natural, professional and friendly, easy to understand, and efficient.” (Aufmann, 2016) This allows the user to experience more of the non-verbal cues we experience with face-to-face conversation.

Take Skype for example, this platform was designed to allow people across the world to connect and feel as though they are in the same room. The design system use within Skype is made for “rich communication and collaboration experiences.” (Punchcut, 2018) Skype allows the users to video chat, share documents, and chat with one another in a seamless manner with increased personalization and expression. (Skype, 2018) These multi-cue features, as well as the immediacy of feedback through the video chat feature, helps to create closeness per Walther’s definition of electronic propinquity. (Skype, 2018) Skype helps “you stay connected with everyone you care about.” (Skype, 2018)

Stay tuned for Part Five: Listen to Your Users! Did you miss a part? Check out the full series here: Design for Communication.
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