Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Feb 2013 22:52 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces "If you're paying attention to what's going on in the design world, you've probably noticed the ongoing debate around skeuomorphism vs. flat design." Good overview of the subject from Sacha Greif. This is a very important point: "But where the main victim of realism is merely good taste, taking minimalism too far can have serious consequences on usability. Users have come to rely on a lot of subtle clues to make their way through an interface: buttons have slight gradients and rounded corners, form fields have a soft inner shadow, and navigation bars 'float' over the rest of the content. Remove all these clues, and you end up with a flat world where every element is suddenly placed at the same level, potentially leading to confusion: Is this a button, or simply a banner? Will anything happen if I tap this?"
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jared_wilkes
Member since:
2011-04-25

What is abstract about making a digital target area look like a physical button? What is abstract about making a virtual file visible as an icon that looks like a textual document? What is abstract about radio buttons? Checkboxes?

These are foundational, fundamental UI conventions that are 100%-rooted in skeuomorphism. Some people simple don't like it being pointed out because it destroys the argument that "skeuomorphism is bad."

Reply Parent Score: 3

ssokolow Member since:
2010-01-21

What is abstract about making a digital target area look like a physical button? What is abstract about making a virtual file visible as an icon that looks like a textual document? What is abstract about radio buttons? Checkboxes?

These are foundational, fundamental UI conventions that are 100%-rooted in skeuomorphism. Some people simple don't like it being pointed out because it destroys the argument that "skeuomorphism is bad."


When people say "skeuomorphism is bad", what they're really saying is "woodgrain-patterned plastic cases on electronics are tacky".

Skeuomorphism an extreme on a continuum, as is flat design. The problem with flat design is it prevents affordances and the problem with skeuomorphism is that it impairs consistency.

Smart design sits in the middle. After all, too much of almost anything is a bad thing.

Also, really? Checkboxes are simply digital mimicks of things in the real world? I see them as almost identical digital copies. What if I used a Wacom Cintiqu to check a digital checkbox. It wouldn't be skeuomorphic, it'd be a checkbox on a digital page.

Reply Parent Score: 3

ssokolow Member since:
2010-01-21

To clarify where I'm coming from, a plastic TV housing is blatantly not made of wood and no amount of pattern-print will change that.

A desktop application's GUI is not made of stitched leather and no amount of patterning will change that... though it can still be visually-pleasing.

I like visually-pleasing applications, but I've never really perceived them as "made of" anything but the virtual pseudo-plastic (almost) that grey backgrounds register as in my mind. (I tried to explain the feel for years... then I bought a Rosewill RK-9000I keyboard and realized it was an almost perfect example of the desired "slightly matte" except for the sound my finger still makes if I rub on it)

Reply Parent Score: 2

jared_wilkes Member since:
2011-04-25

When people say "skeuomorphism is bad", what they're really saying is "woodgrain-patterned plastic cases on electronics are tacky".


In some cases, not in all. In the former, they are using terminology ineffectively and aren't helping their case. In the latter, they are making an extreme case that is not well supported.

Skeuomorphism an extreme on a continuum, as is flat design.


No, Skeuomorphism is not the extreme at the end of the continuum -- it is it's own whole spectrum. There are innumerable instances of skeuomorphism even in "flat" designs like Metro and Holo.

Also, really? Checkboxes are simply digital mimicks of things in the real world? I see them as almost identical digital copies. What if I used a Wacom Cintiqu to check a digital checkbox. It wouldn't be skeuomorphic, it'd be a checkbox on a digital page.


Why is it a checkmark at all? It could be yes/no text, or a red or green circle, or any number of non-analogous objects. Why a checkmark instead of a tick, or a dot, or an X (which it may be)? Yes, trying to make a reference to something that you are already familiar with in some other context is the definition of skeuomorphism. Whether the analog is very close to its digital counterpart or not very similar at all doesn't change that it is skeuomorphism.

Reply Parent Score: 1

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

The standard buttons in any gui toolkit I've ever seen look nothing like the physical buttons I've seen in my real life. So they have an aspect of abstraction built into their looks. Its a kinda but not really aspect.

Icons of written documents aren't bad, but the more you actually make them look like a mini photograph of a document, the worse they are. Usually less is more in this case. Microsoft has always used a giant W for Microsoft word documents, sometimes with a litte doc behind it. It works great. If you made it more skeumorphic it wouldn't be so great.

Radio buttons? Again the standard ones look nothing like real old school 1970's buttons that you'd find on radios.

Check boxes? I don't press them in real life. I can't press them again to remove the check mark I made.

Its a blend of skeumorphic and abstraction that we are used to on computers, and that's what works best, imho.

Edited 2013-02-13 17:23 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 7

jared_wilkes Member since:
2011-04-25

The standard buttons in any gui toolkit I've ever seen look nothing like the physical buttons I've seen in my real life. So they have an aspect of abstraction built into their looks.


The level of familiarity or photorealism or direct analog doesn't change that it is in fact skeuomorphic. Why do buttons need to have a false sense of depth when you are dealing with a 2D target area? As soon as you start to appeal to some unnecessary analog it is skeuomorphism.

Why Its a kinda but not really aspect. Icons of written documents aren't bad, but the more you actually make them look like a mini photograph of a document, the worse they are. Usually less is more in this case. Microsoft has always used a giant W for Microsoft word documents, sometimes with a litte doc behind it. It works great. If you made it more skeumorphic it wouldn't be so great.


I think my point is being misinterpreted. My point is: skeuomorphism is both unavoidable and desirable despite what some would say or have us believe. Of course, it is a question of degree. But unfortunately, I've had to endure nearly 2 years of black-and-white arguments saying that it is bad -- quality articles like this one are returning the nuances back into the debate.

Radio buttons? Again the standard ones look nothing like real old school 1970's buttons that you'd find on radios.


There's nothing in the definition of skeuomorphism that says that the analog must be "real old school 1970's buttons that you'd find on radios." People have been using the term since before the turn of the century -- before there were computers or even transistors.

Check boxes? I don't press them in real life. I can't press them again to remove the check mark I made. Its a blend of skeumorphic and abstraction that we are used to on computers, and that's what works best, imho.


More or less what I am saying, yes.

Edited 2013-02-13 20:14 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2