Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th Apr 2012 17:05 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces Tobias Bjerrome Ahlin, an interface designer at Spotify, is a big believer in skeuomorphism. Whereas Apple is a strong advocate of this design concept, Microsoft is clearly moving in the exact opposite direction, while Android is in the process of moving away from skeuomorphism entirely, to a more digital experience. As a passionate hater of skeuomorphism in UIs, I found Ahlin's examples to be a bit weak.
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Comment by clasqm
by clasqm on Sat 21st Apr 2012 13:17 UTC
clasqm
Member since:
2010-09-23

You might be surprised just how skeumorphic your car actually is, Thom, even after we've been using them for a century. That surface in front of you that holds all the instruments? It's called a dashboard. The original dashboard was a simple plank on which the driver of a stagecoach would put his feet so he could brace himself when the horses made a dash. Sorry, my Dutch is too rusty to know if that works in your language.

Does your car have speedo and tach dials that move in a circular fashion? They WILL move clockwise as road or engine speed increases. Why? Because that's the way clocks have moved for hundreds of years. A decision made by a clock maker hundreds of years ago still influences designs today. Or do you have digital bars, well, they WILL extend from left to right to indicate an increase, never the other way round. Just like they did on steam trains in the nineteenth century.

Another example: luxury cars have long bonnets with the front wheels way out front. There's no real engineering reason for this. But that's where the horses used to be and rich people had more horses pulling their carriages than poor people. By all means try to market a luxury car with the wheels directly in front of the driver. It won't sell.

But back to computers. The real problem with skeumorphism is that it constantly runs into obsolescence. We see this in iPhoto for OSX, for example, which used to categorize photos into "rolls". As emulsion film cameras gave way to digital cameras, more and more consumers asked "what's a roll?" and Apple had to change it to "events". Strangely, the Photos app in iOS still refers to a camera roll.

The same thing will happen to agenda apps that resemble filofaxes. "a filo-what?" Skeumorphism is something that constantly needs to be redone as digital replaces the analog world it initially tries to imitate.

Now can we talk about the most glaring example of skeumorphsm of them all: the QWERTY keyboard?

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by clasqm
by ndrw on Sat 21st Apr 2012 14:30 in reply to "Comment by clasqm"
ndrw Member since:
2009-06-30

That's not what skeumorphism is all about. Going through your examples:

- Dashboard - just a name. No one is putting legs on it anymore, at least not while driving.
- Clock and dials - that's a convention. No one is trying to imitate an actual clock (twelve digits, two hands, tick-tack and a woodpecker)
- Long bonnets and wheels in the front - leg room and a big engine.
- Filofaxes - no idea what's that. This analogy wouldn't help me at all.
- QWERTY - again, a convention. Physical keyboard may look similar to a typewriter because of similar physical constraints but the last thing I want from an on-screen keyboard is to render a photo of a keyboard (at least not while they lack tactile feedback).

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by clasqm
by Athlander on Sat 21st Apr 2012 15:21 in reply to "RE: Comment by clasqm"
Athlander Member since:
2008-03-10

Filofaxes - no idea what's that. This analogy wouldn't help me at all


This helps prove his point.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by clasqm
by clasqm on Sun 22nd Apr 2012 10:09 in reply to "RE: Comment by clasqm"
clasqm Member since:
2010-09-23

- Filofaxes - no idea what's that. This analogy wouldn't help me at all.


A picture paints a thousand words:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Myfilofax.jpg

OK, I'm sure you see the inspiration for dozens of skeumorphic PIM apps there.

- QWERTY - again, a convention. Physical keyboard may look similar to a typewriter because of similar physical constraints but the last thing I want from an on-screen keyboard is to render a photo of a keyboard (at least not while they lack tactile feedback).


That's not the point. If this was about efficiency, we would all be typing on the far more efficient Dvorak layout now, on tablets, on laptops, on everything, not on a QWERTY layout that was developed for nineteenth century typewriters. The QWERTY keyboard layout perpetuates an illusion that we are still working on an ancient typewriter. And we all go along with it. Resistance to learning something new is a very strong factor even among geeks, and I don't exempt myself from that!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dvorak_Simplified_Keyboard

If anything, I am arguing that the general definition of skeumorphism is too loose and not radical enough. It goes far deeper than just how photo-realistic a depiction of a real-world object it is. If you don't analyse those deeper levels, then no matter how abstract and non-representative you make the depiction, the skeumorphism is still lurking underneath and waiting for a graphic designer to pretty it up and make it look like a real-world object again.

The question is not whether the virtual keyboard on, say, your iPad is a photo of a typewriter keyboard (actually, it is damn close to a photo of an Apple wireless keyboard, but never mind). The point is that as long as nobody asks the question "isn't there a better way to do text entry?", the possibility exists for someone to make that photo of a typewriter keyboard and paste it in there. And as long as that possibility exists, someone, somewhere, is going to do it.

And if that "better way" does catch on, watch out for someone to make a skeumorphic representation of that, ten or twenty years later! This is going to be a long debate.

Reply Parent Score: 2