Skeuomorphic Design: The Pros and Cons
What is Skeuomorphism?
Skeuomorphism (the tendency to deliberately make something new look like something old and familiar) is a polarizing design language people either love or hate. Maybe one of the biggest and most familiar supporter of skeuomorphic design is Apple. Like most design languages there are positives and negatives to using it.
When used correctly skeuomorphism can be a very effective design tool. It can make the functionality or overall theme of your site very clear. Also, when designing specifically for usability skeuomorphism can use familiar things we use in everyday life to make it clear to the user what they are supposed to do. For example This iPad app was designed to be a virtual DJ. The user can clearly see the turntable and the knobs and instinctively knows how to use the app.
While it still has many critics, one effective way Apple has used skeuomorphism is in their iBooks App. This design integrates the visual familiarity of books in a bookcase with usability that enables the user to see all of the covers and easily browse through their selection.
This is an example where Apple has used a compromised version of Skeuomorphism in their design. On an actual bookshelf your books would not sit facing out like that but would just expose their spine. This is where the use of skeuomorphism is design can run into problems.
When using skeuomorphic design you have to be extremely careful to make it 100% realistic because the human eye can detect discrepancies such as incorrect lighting, spacing, and fake textures and finishes.
Another argument against skeuomorphism is that it dumbs down out technology. New apps and designs have made it so that we can do things in the virtual world that we are not able to do in the real world. Taking a new technology and making it function as a current real life thing defeats the purpose.
One thing that many people say Apple has dropped the ball on is keeping a skeuomorphic design consistent. If you are going to use it you have to commit to it 100%. An example of really bad skeuomorphic design is Apple’s “Find My Friends” App.
This app deals with locating friends in a certain area, but the app is designed as a sort of leather portfolio or something. It seems as it is designed this way for the sake of having a design not to communicate use or show the point of the app. How a friend tracker technology has anything to do with leather portfolio is beyond me but I guess Apple can’t win them all.
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