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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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

dnebdal Member since:
2008-08-27

Isn't the definition of skeumorphism specifically "Adding design elements that have no purpose except to look like something else" - like the modillions in classic greek architecture that are meant to look like the ends of wooden beams, but are completely superficial in a stone temple? (In other words, a design variant of what biology would call a vestigial element).

Abstracted down to the basics, a checkbox is just a way to say "you can make a selection here" and "you have selected this" - and nothing about that is vestigial; you need both parts, and they can't be made much simpler than a box and a mark. The form itself is inspired by a paper variant, sure - but skeumorphism would be to add elements that only served a purpose on paper.

Edited 2013-02-14 11:34 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2