Skeuomorphism

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I hold a few different sometimes conflicting feelings on Skeuomorphism as it relates to User Interface Design. I see people go back and forth on the debate itself. I don’t feel that Skeuomorphic Design is necessarily right or wrong; I have seen some good examples however they are few and far between.

I think it is important to understand what adding analog metaphors within a digital device means and whether or not it is used effectively.

What does the term mean? / Where did it come from? The way the term itself is used today is incorrect. A skeuomorph is an physical ornament on an object. For example; wood paneling on cars. How is it being used today? We use it to describe analog solution on digital interfaces. For example a; leather with stitched binding with paper on a digital calendar.

So then the question should be asked; what do you define as a good/bad example?

Good examples are things that can help someone to understand interactions. For example: Pressing a button should behave realistically. Textures should make elements appear more tactile for touch interaction. Animations or transitions can help to keep a user oriented. The layout of object should should be familiar.

Form without function makes for bad Skeuomorphic Designs, especially if that it behaves unrealistically. Things that appear stitched to other objects but behave independently. Light sources that appear to be coming from nowhere. Mixing to many different material analogies. Impossible Physics.

Skeuomorphism can potentially be a good thing if it’s used in moderation in order to communicate function, however if it is being used merely as an arbitrary pattern, it becomes kitsch or gimmicky.