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Skeuomorphism (skeu.it)
260 points by speednoise on Sept 10, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments

Hey all. I'm the curator (punch me in the feelings for saying that) of Skeu.it.

Thanks for the support!

I'm enjoying the debate here and won't get too much into it. For those arguing what is and isn't skeuomorphism, you're missing the point of the showcase.

Skeu.it, as specified on the masthead, celebrates arbitrary and gratuitous user interface decisions. Specifically, this means the misappropriation of visual artifacts designed for evoking familiarity in both form and function.

So yes, in my joyfully entitled opinion, using a big piece of frosted glass, with paper hanging from a rope, with magic buttons that somehow exist on lined paper, is a foolish design choice. Really, I wouldn't even call it a design choice, I'd say it's more just a collection of photoshop tutorials masquerading as an interface. Unnecessary skeu is the 2012+ version of the House Industries' "Crackhouse" typeface (http://www.houseind.com/fonts/crackhouse) appearing on every website and flyer 10 years ago. It's a classic, recognizable typeface...but stare at that for a moment, think back to how it didn't really make sense to announce free puppies or a car wash in deconstructed type, and let the understanding wash over you. Mmm, delicious understanding.

I have no hate towards skeu ("skeuomorphism must die" is silly) at all. In fact, I defend it:

http://www.quora.com/What-are-the-advantages-of-skeuomorphic... (from last year, a bit outdated)

Thanks again, and please send any good candidates my way (@303, @skeuit) for skeu.it!

Edit: Proper capitalization, the official end of my majuscular laziness.

Agree with your fight, thanks for carving this site about gratuitous user interface decisions, really. However, I am puzzled that you don't apply this to your writing and use proper capitalization.

Caught! I've been chastised for this laziness too many times. It ends now. Thanks!

With a username like that, I want to see an analysis of Rebirth http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReBirth_RB-338

Good - the skeu on Rebirth helps orient people on what they're using: a virtual re-creation of a piece of hardware.

Bad - screen-rendered knobs are awkward to work with using pointer oriented input (mouse, touch pad/screen, stylus).

It's not just Reason and Rebirth. Everyone has been following this type of design for over a decade. Eventually I just gave up. Even the best software in the recording industry is hopelessly designed to resemble a physical piece of gear and to be clicked with a mouse. It is mind-numbingly stupid.

At one point Digidesign had this lower end product called a 001. ProTools is of course an image of a recording console on the screen. On their second iteration of this product, the 002 I think it was, they released an actual pseudo-console with some tactile knobs. For a moment I thought maybe they were getting a clue. But I don't think things have changed much. Recording engineers are still pointing and clicking. It is close to impossible to automate. (Of course they think they are automating, but they haven't got any idea what true automation really is.)

Either no one at these companies understands how to use a command line and parsed configuration files or, less likely, they do know but they do not believe their customers could ever learn.

I concluded I am better off using snd(1) than waiting for the recording industry to figure out how computers work (i.e. to become proficient in the ways of UNIX). At least the guys in the lab at Stanford have got it right. You can even use Scheme.

That covers it pretty well!

To further elaborate, getting deep into nerdland here...

The fundamental mistake with Rebirth is the literal translation. For someone to choose Rebirth over the actual hardware, they likely do not own the hardware (for those actually bothering to read this, software doesn't sound quite like 20-year-old hardware, especially in this example). Therefore, there was little reason to mimic the odd limitations of the originals unrelated to sound or performance. The UI could have been more...I can't think of the word but "homunculus" comes to mind, that is, the knobs and interactive elements could have been larger, while retaining the visual aesthetic of the originals. The 303 could have benefitted (as with modern CPU upgrades to it) live note editing. Things like that. Maintaining weird, frustrating aspects of the originals, for the sake of appealing to people who probably never owned them, would be my #1 criticism.

So skeuomorphism is now anything besides Windows Phone style "pure digital"? Shiny = glass, black texture = leather, blue texture = denim, etc? That's going to be really, really boring.

I don't know why texture is such a bad thing. Of course you can overdo it like anything, but personally I prefer Reeder with a light paper-pulp backing texture instead of a plain light peach background.

For example, what is so bad about this?


It almost feels like people are calling it skeuomorphic so that's how they expect the developer to feel about it. I don't think regular people look at these as real world metaphors, expecting them to function as they do in real life. That feels to me like a theoretical user posed by developers that doesn't actually exist.

In reality, people see it for what it is. Design flair. Whether or not it's unnecessary or helps the user with the app is missing the point entirely. Design that's pleasing to the eye shouldn't get in the way and cause problems, but it doesn't have to accelerate your use of the service to be positive overall.

Aero Glass is a great example. It gets mixed opinions, but I think we can all agree that it's far better than Luna and IE actually looks pretty great with it. There is no skeuomorphic benefit to having glass everywhere. It's simply design flair. With that in mind, I still prefer it.

    For example, what is so bad about this?
Because it reproduces a hypothetical real-world object, that not only doesn't make any sense (what is a sheet of paper hanging from a glass panel anyway?), but doesn't add any meaning to what this interface is supposed to do?

You can use skeumorphism where it makes sense. The problem is that login form has no analog in real-life, so in this one designer just went crazy for the sake of it.

EDIT: Yay, let's downvote.

Have an upvote.

I found myself giggling at this one along with all the other ones with things that make no sense like leather buttons and switches, and then I started to wonder: is it possible that the designers making this nonsense are actually representing an aesthetic totally decoupled from actual usability? In fact, let me get ageist here for a second—could it be that the designers making this nonsense are actually too young to have ever seen or used the real-world objects these skeumorphic interfaces are imitating?

I don't know about you, but I found some of my rage dissipated when I started to consider this just fashionable design. Yes, in a perfect world Apple would make appropriate (i.e. less) use of skeumorphism and therefore we wouldn't be seeing these kinds of ridiculous excesses from young designers, but something has to be the fad, and right now this seems to be it.

could it be that the designers making this nonsense are actually too young to have ever seen or used the real-world objects these skeumorphic interfaces are imitating?

You sure have something there. I recently felt like a dinosaur when I was explaining line ending characters to a young programmer who had never seen a carriage returning or a line feeding.

> The problem is that login form has no analog in real-life, so in this one designer just went crazy for the sake of it.

That is not a problem. A problem is: "it is hard to use", "it uses a lot of bandwidth", "people dislike it in A/B testing and buy less".

"it uses a lot of bandwidth" is exactly the problem that skeu-craziness is. Purposeless high-resolution backgrounds and animations waste storage space, bandwidth, cycles, and developer time. Time/money spent adding a fake leather texture is time/money unspent on functional aspects of a product.

> Purposeless high-resolution backgrounds

So you're against textures full stop, not just skeumorphism? Because of course high-resolution textures are not necessarily skeumorphic.

> Time/money spent adding a fake leather texture is time/money unspent on functional aspects of a product.

Using a fake leather texture takes about as long as using some other texture or choosing a solid color or choosing which direction the gradient goes in... You're either spending time on design, or you're not. Even being minimalistic takes time and intention.

Skeuomorphism is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original [1].

So the problem is exactly it: the designer attempted a skeumorphic design of something that has no original in the first place. The consequences then are that it doesn't improve usability, wastes bandwidth, etc. - just as in any other bad design.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeuomorph

If the designer does something to no positive effect, it does not automatically mean that the effect is negative.

>For example, what is so bad about this?http://skeu.it/image/24908403424

from a usability standpoint, absolutely nothing. from an aesthetic standpoint, it is tacky as hell. They may as well have wrapped their login form with faux-fur texture leopard print. You're right, it is merely a stylistic choice and it isn't going to confuse the users. That doesn't make it good.

So you would say it violates the Universal and Objective standards of good taste?

Somebody has to say it.

Though I agree with both of you, I think that there is a certain amount of success that drives these designs to continue to be made. In retrospect it's quite easy to criticize the design here and naturally, we are all pretty unanimous that it could be much better. That being said, saying "it fails because it uses textures" is very different than "it fails in it's use of textures".

Try doing a ghetto case study by asking anyone around you whom is ignorant of good design trends whether they rather login to your shot or one like this:


Did the skeuomorphic shot shot pick up votes? It won unanimously from the people I asked. As designers we can nitpick about the goals of each design and the information that had to be shown but at the end of the day, unless your designing for a community like Dribbble, it's going to be design ignorant people using your interface. The main objective of this interface should be to retain users through it and a large component to succeed in doing so is by having the form be visually compelling - not to us, to them.

Just like programmers are told to assume that every user is a malicious hacker, I believe designers should assume every user has poor taste. It's a much like how you don't see people in public wearing edgy designs off the runway despite them being created by people considered the very best fashion designers. There could easily be a company that takes these designs as is and mass produces them cheap for the public but this doesn't happen because there is a major discrepancy between designers and consumers tastes. Our job as designers is to bridge the gap in these tastes - between what we know is good and what users will actually agree is good.

Of course, don't take this to mean that I think this type of login is in any way ideal but I do think it works better than what more or less an unstyled form adhering to metro. It would be one thing if all good designers were all designing in a minimalistic style... but they aren't. The problem with the excessive paper/glass/linen/wood/gradient/etc is that good designers are using them in their designs and it forces the trend followers of the industry to feel like they somehow need to incorporate all the same elements. To me the design tells a tale of someone who believed that adding, well, added to the design. The result was something over-designed, superfluous, a cliché of what something outstanding should look like.

I think it's quite odd when people are adamantly against one style of design. I have extremely minimal designs I enjoy like the Nest thermostat and I have more skeuomorphic looking designs I enjoy like Path. To me, both are designed well because both use their respective language correctly not because they use one language over the other. Maybe some programmers can attest to a similar feeling... if you preferred Python would you rather work on a project with terribly written Python or extremely well written Ruby? The later seems obvious. One last thing to consider: if anything the reason skueomorphic design is getting hated on is largely because it's existed so long. Though a minimal design is likely harder to butcher completely, it won't be long until people are making really atrocious looking Metro apps and then all those who thought it was the be-all-end-all future of interfaces can have a beer and laugh about being wrong.

Just my opinion though. If you disagree, please don't downvote me to oblivion - tell me why you side with the camp you do as I'm always open-minded to good persuasion :)

It's incredibly annoying to see some people discount any design if it is anything more than flat and solid colors.

Everyone of all design understanding levels understands a sense of craft. Subtle gradients, shadows, textures, and effects go a long way to creating a 2d digital object of worth.

Nothing in the real world is a solid color--it has light, texture, and materiality. Stripping a visual of all of these characteristics creates an uneasy steril-ness that can feel flat and or cheap.

I agree. This site seems to call-out anything with a certain kind of texture as "skeumorphic," and many of the examples are quite attractive on their own.

But I think you're pigeonholing it into a certain school of design. I don't see it calling out just any texture -- only a certain range commonly found in software these days (especially on iOS). I'm talking about denim, paper, stone, leather, and other rough, durable surfaces that remind us of certain tactile sensations. (I'd also add a category for shiny, glossy, perhaps candy-like textures.) It certainly makes sense for these kinds of textures to appear most commonly on touch devices, but as designers it's good to understand when we're being a bit derivative.

If anything, skeu.it will help me be more self-aware.

> I'm talking about denim, paper, stone, leather...

Add glass, wood, and brick and that's probably every common surface texture that humans interact with daily. Is it really any surprise that these are used over and over? You claim it's derivative but maybe it's just common.

> "maybe it's just common"

Perhaps making it a poor choice for building a brandable user interface. That is, if you want your app to stand out from the crowd.

> So skeuomorphism is now anything besides Windows Phone style "pure digital"? ... I don't know why texture is such a bad thing. Of course you can overdo it like anything, ...

Here's a key to interpreting the internet (and, well, all of society really, but the internet is like normal society on speed):

(1) People love to whine.

(2) People love to feel that they're on the cusp of a trend.

(3) People love to repeat what <somebody smart> said, because that makes them feel smart too -- but often don't really understand the basis of <somebody smart>'s statement (details matter!).

(4) People like black-and-white, crisp, clear-cut dogma; details and shades of grey are confusing and annoying. Whoooo, slogans!

Apparently, for whatever reason, some people have decided that so-called "skeuomorphism" is so-misguided, so-yesterday, so-OMG-ARE-YOU-STILL-DOING-THAT?!1? No doubt there is a kernel of truth behind this, but it's also probably completely swamped by the resulting noise...

Anyway, right.

Except that when it comes to usability, using skeuomorphism tends to confuse user (note that it happens in some cases), because it implies that something will behave in a certain way like a real world counterpart, while that piece of interface might not.

I liken this stance of skeuomorphism to Douglas Crockford's stance on JSLint. To parahprase him "if there are two ways to do something and one of them can be a terrible source of conusion, use the other". This was originally meant for programming but it can apply as well to designing interfaces. So using skeuomorphism isn't immediately bad but it's a red flag, like saying if(a=b) in C.

The "leather" tagged posts on the front page are more than "black texture". Both of them feature "thread stitching" along the borders. I thought these were the worst of the bunch, actually.

I agree that the "Skeumorphism must die" meme has gotten out of hand. But the examples on this site are actually pretty well justified AFAICT.

Both of them feature "thread stitching" along the borders

It may be overused and bad taste but "thread stitching" is not in itself Skeumorphic design which is I believe the GP's point. A skeuomorph /ˈskjuːəmɔrf/ skew-ə-morf, or skeuomorphism (Greek: skeuos—vessel or tool, morphe—shape),[1] is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original

A calendar app which looks like a desktop calendar is skeumorphic, a notepad app which looks like an actual notepad or a media player which looks like a tape player are the same. A weather app with a jean texture and a zipper may be ugly, but its not skeumorphic. The examples on this site may be examples of poor design but they are not, necessarily examples of poor skeumorphic design.

The way I see it, this website features two types of design. The first is skeumorphic design, and the other is a sort of mimicry of skeumorphic design by people who presumably did not realize the underlying point of skeumorphism.

Cargo cult design, basically.

I would argue that there is no "underlying point" of skeuomorphism except to make shit feel nice by alluding to familiar real-life objects. There's no requirement that the source material be functionally similar.

That linked one is inoffensive though still a bit goofy IMO: we've got lined paper, but the text on it completely disregards the lines, and the rope/metal cord hanging the paper doesn't look right depth-wise. And glass + lined notepaper is a weird combo in general. :)

But I agree with your take that in a case like that it's merely a stylistic choice (some of the other examples, though...). The interesting thing to me is the cyclical aspect: skins seemed to have died down in popularity, at least among the geek crowd, for the past decade. Apple's brushed metal stuff was largely derided, Luna got toned down to Aero Glass, Aqua got toned down to what it is today, "skinnable" became less and less a bullet point for apps (ah, for the good ol' days of Sonique and Audion...). It remained on the web, since there's no good "native" equivalent like for desktop apps, though even there Bootstrap was a move away. Then it exploded again, driven by iOS and an increase in single-page web apps. I have to wonder if it's due to an influx of new designers and developers who are starting on iOS or the web and missed the first go-round. Ultimately I suspect that many of the more extreme examples we see today will end up massively toned down, along the lines of Mac OS X 10.0's Aqua vs today's. I.e., linen/denim/leather/etc are today's pinstripes and brushed metal.

What is wrong? Mainly the fact that those have nothing to do with skeuomorphism, it is only pointless bloat. Those designs have nothing to do with real world metaphors, they just shout "I can use cool textures too!"

And it is not new; the first weave of this epidemy stroked Windows somewhere around Win98 when average developers, inspired by a few actual skeumorphic designs, have learned how to use non-rectangular visibility regions and all this crappy ~1MB shareware become ~10MB (because of textures) crappier (because author had spent most time on "design") shareware that was antiskeuomorphic because it looked/behaved neither "real" nor like a Windows application. Both Luna and then Aero were nice enough to make people appreciate consistency and refocus on function, while the madness moved to iStuff (ok, Android too, but thank heavens considerably less).

> For example, what is so bad about this? http://skeu.it/image/24908403424

Putting in a ruled notebook texture and not lining up the text makes it look a little silly.

I completely agree, I'm getting a little tired of the whining about the 's'-word. For example, on the blog it shows the letter from Square with a paper background. What are we supposed to do instead of something like that? Blocks of solid color for everything, like you said?

It's not a letter, it's an email. That's the whole point.

No, Windows Metro just happens to not be skeuomorphic.

>So skeuomorphism is now anything besides Windows Phone style "pure digital"? Shiny = glass, black texture = leather, blue texture = denim, etc? That's going to be really, really boring

How is Metro really really boring? Have you used WP beyond seeing screenshots?


If you're really interested in the design philosophy , here's some analysis of Metro's alternative approach which mainly goes by the 'authentically digital', 'intentionally 2d' and 'content before chrome' philosophies.




You can have plenty of design flair in Metro. In fact, you can get skeumorphic! http://www.silverlightshow.net/Storage/Users/chiara/cabinet_...

>Aero Glass is a great example

Aero Glass is just barely skeumorphic, it mostly stays out of the way except for window borders. Other skeumorphic designs are much more in your face and some affect usability because it's not clear what the controls are and how to interact with them.

In defense of your parent I think you misunderstood what he's saying is boring. What I took it to mean was that if you write off everything remotely skeuomorphic, textured, etc. and only leave 2D Windows Phone style pure digital design then that becomes boring. It's not boring because it's WP-digital style but because after a while that style of design will become as boring and played out as skeuomorphic design. Windows Phone and Windows 8 are actually really nice looking and that's coming from a guy who loves Apple's design sensibilities and have hated Windows' design up until Windows Phone and Win8 (with 7 having some redeeming qualities to it).

I actually think Aero Glass is quite skeuomorphic. It's literally a window. And for me it definitely does get in the way. The way the shadows and colors change behind the glass is distracting, it's often hard to tell what window is active, and I always get distracted by the taskbar because suddenly one of the icons will flash except the flash isn't a real instance of an app trying to alert me but a false alarm caused by my mouse getting too near it or, again, another window moving just the wrong way as to make the taskbar glass react even though nothing relevant is going on there for me to look at.

I don't want to start a flame war over Apple UI v. Windows at all. What I'm saying is that the parent has a point. I'm also saying Aero Glass isn't for everyone. There are lots of people like me who have the same problems with it and we're not imagining it and no, we're not using it wrong. It's just now we are and it doesn't mean you're wrong for liking it just as much as it doesn't mean we're wrong for disliking it.

The larger point I want to make beyond all that is that design flair matters. It's not superfluous at all. A lot of people like to talk about design flair like its a gimmick and take a purist view of design where it's only about usability. Usability is most important but design flair can take an interface with perfect usability to the next level. It's what gives apps credibility. It makes the experience enjoyable and it's what makes people love their apps. Any trend taken too far can become exhausting and awful to look at though and I think we're starting to see this with skeuomorphic design. It's sad because I loved it until some people butchered it. It's Web 2.0 all over again and the "pure digital" style will eventually fall victim to overuse too eventually.

I think this site is funny but it's meant to be taken with a grain of salt. Some of those designs really are nice but it's still fun to poke some fun at them nonetheless.

The thing I really like about Android, and to an even greater extent WP8, is that apps feel more like pieces of an integrated task. On iOS every app wants to be a special snowflake and this is annoying when most of the time I just want to grab an image or a chunk of text from one place and use it in another place. To me this is all part of one overall task and the UI should feel like a cohesive tool for this and not emphasize the (to the user) arbitrary boundary between one app and another.

Good point. For those interested, here is Matias Duarte talking exactly about this:


Aero glass is gone in Windows 8. Design flair is different from skeuomorphism, you can have one without the other.

My designer friend and I are laughing so hard at this that we're crying.

In all seriousness, this is the perfect tool for showing people how skeumorphism can be taken too far. I actually like many of these designs, but the point is that the metaphors don't actually help, and sometimes only add to the confusion. (Denim weather app? Pea coat button loops for on/off switches?)

In all fairness, lots of these are just people on Dribbble flexing their photoshop muscles.

The peacoat on off switch wouldn't be great in your app (unless you're selling peacoats or something) but it still looks kinda cool.

The peacoat on/off switch is causing a lot of cognitive dissonance in me right now. It's so pointless, but so adorable. I want to make a peacoat-related app just to have an excuse to use it.

It turns out that I don't know my garment lingo well enough. That kind of closure on a coat is called a "toggle" so it's a sort of visual pun.

I want to see how it would animate!

I don't understand all the hate for skeuomorphism lately. Who cares if the todo app uses a design that makes it feel like a leather bound paper notebook. The point of design is to make something functional and beautiful. As long as it doesn't actively make the functionality worse, and some people like they way it looks, what is the problem?

I see the current skeuomorphism trend, in a way, as cargo-culting. People saw some questionable, but not entirely dreadful uses of it (basically Apple's effort) and thought, "yeah that looks good! I'm going to give my app an awesome real life texture!"

Take the denim weather app design for example.

To what extent does a denim effect, that one would associate primarily with jeans, have anything to do with the weather? Did the designer think to question that, or was it just a case of mind-bogglingly detailed texture being the in thing?

I mean, if you can't come up with a reason for that particular choice of visual metaphor other than "it looks good", then was it really the right choice?

On a side note, I dislike the usage of this in native app design. You'd get those ridiculous apps in Windows XP with bonkers custom UIs, including Safari and Quicktime, for that matter. Now apps in OSX are skinned in odd ways (in Address Book's case, detrimentally so) and Windows 8 appears to be aiming for a consistent look and feel.

A todo app uses a design that makes it feel like a leather bound paper notebook is skeuomorphism. A weather application is with a denim texture is just a weather app with a denim texture. It could just as easily have a squiggly line texture or have a solid purple neon background. It might be ugly and stupid but that doesn't make it skeuomorphism.

and some people like they way it looks

The bar that I use for complaining about something is if I like the way it looks.

I agree, it seems to be the kind of value you can subscribe to in order to advertise your sophistication to the world. The irony is that the idea is not original so the effect is the opposite, instead of signaling sophistication it signals that you want to appear to be sophisticated and are someone who knows a lot about design.

The audio plugin example is typical because the vast majority of music production software exhibits a great deal of skeuomorphism. I personally don't like this because it increases the cognitive load in trying to figure out an interface, and I don't feel like it helps make things more intuitive than a non-skeuomorphic interface -- rather the opposite, it becomes more confusing.

This is one of the reasons I like Ableton Live ( http://www.ableton.com/suite-8 ): it has a simple, consistent user interface elements and the entire user interface happens to be vector based. Not only is it easy to navigate and understand, but the fact that it is vector based allows it to have a resolution-independent interface that can be zoomed in/out. Which addresses another problem with music production software: they tend to use tiny fonts and other UI elements which makes it hard to read when used with a high-PPI monitor and/or when the monitor is far enough away from the user (which seems to often be case in many studio setups). And once you've done a highly graphical skeuomorphic interface that uses lots of bitmaps, scaling doesn't always happen smoothly.

On the other hand, many people like skeuomorphic interfaces when they've had past experience with actual audio hardware. Reason ( http://www.propellerheads.se/products/reason/ ) is one such example where the interface is so skeuomorphic that is often considered a hardware simulator. People who have past experience with such hardware often love Reason because they are able to draw upon past experience to understand the interface. I suppose in this case, this is a very appropriate use of skeuomorphism.

People like me who don't have experience with such hardware aren't necessarily going to appreciate this, though some people will enjoy it even without past experience with hardware because some people simply enjoy visually appealing graphical interfaces. So it's a tough call which group of people is in the majority and who you want to cater to. Personally I like music/audio software to focus on it's core task of being a music creation tool, and less on being graphically impressive; but that's just me.

The other thing to consider is that audio processing is resource intensive. Many times you need to run many things at once and performance suffers.

Guess what else is resource intensive? Graphics. So everytime you have gratuitous graphics (e.g. a guitar plug-in that has one or two controls but goes to ridiculous lengths to reproduce a graphical image of, say, a guitar pedal), it takes away some of your resources.

I think you're right though. The interface is aimed at people who are used to looking at gear. That is the intended audience. They wanted to sell to the same people who were buying physical gear. Unfortunately it alienates anyone who understands how to actually use a computer beyond pointing and clicking or keyboard shortcuts.

I mentioned it in another comment in this thread, but if you want to see how things could be done in a "UNIX way", check out snd from the guys at Stanford CCRMA. It has a long history, longer than Ableton, probably as old as Sound Designer, the precursor to Pro Tools, though I'd have to check the dates. These guys clearly "get it". This is how computers and audio should intersect.

But, functionally, it's not a substitute for MOTU, Ableton or Digidesign, unfortunately.


"Snd is a sound editor modelled loosely after Emacs"

As an Emacs user, I am very much intrigued and will have to try this out. Thanks!

I really shouldn't have said "UNIX way". It really is more a "LISP way" I guess. LISP predates UNIX. My point was just that it's an "interface" that's more in line with how computers actually work.

See to me, some of these examples aren't skeuomorphic. This for example, I've never seen a leather item in meat-space with aluminum buttons. Or a big platic/glass button.


I think that's part of the point here. The visual metaphor of leather doesn't make much sense, and is only there as an ornament because it (apparently) looks attractive. Why include the leather at all, if it's not a helpful metaphor for using the product?


Some of these are actually pretty attractive and don't appear to interfere with the usage of the app. Others aren't so attractive and many more are hard to use.

Why is a texture automatically worse than a solid colored background?

I wasn't arguing that texture is worse. When used appropriately, it's generally better than solid colors, both in terms of UX and just visual attractiveness.

But there is a certain category of textures that seem to come up most often on this site. Things like leather, denim, paper that perhaps remind users of rough, tactile, durable materials. These metaphors get a lot of use, especially on iOS, and I find that it's funny to call them out sometimes. Sure, it's attractive, but also perhaps a bit derivative.

Anything to back the claim that textures are "generally better" in terms of UX? Studies? Statistics? A/B testing?

That was just opinion. Should have made that clear.

A little context helps -- check out the overuse of certain textures over on http://dribbble.com/ .

Devil's advocate: leather, or any skin for that matter, creates a distinctiveness to the app that serves as kind of a "key" to your mental model of how it works and what it's for.

That key can be used in various incarnations of your app's UI, on the web, across platforms, or even in system services (like notifications or Siri's sheets) to let the user quickly make the association with your app.

nobody needs a devil's advocate, it is a cheap way of making an argument for the sake of making an argument.

leather does not add distinctiveness to your app, it creates an association between your app and leather that now shares a bond with the 100s of other apps that use leather. the only apps i can think of that have used leather to such an abstract, memorable extreme are paypal (blue leather wtf?) and find my friends, the classic.

mental models have nothing to do with this, unless the average user has a previous experience that associates your product/service/offering with leather. even cowboy boots, even some sort of evocative mood, whatever, that's fine, but if you are using leather because you think you're making it distinct, there are far too many others doing the same.

Well, obviously there are tons of apps that have diluted leather's distinctiveness (and leather is but one example), but the argument for a garish, non-functional skin is still as I outlined above.

Also, I didn't mean to imply that leather in itself teaches you how an app works. However, once you've used an app with a distinct skin, the next time you launch that app the skin, as a sort of visual touchstone, will help you remember how you used it in the past, etc.

>This for example, I've never seen a leather item in meat-space with aluminum buttons.

The leather and metal buttons remind me of an old camera (or one such as a Leica with a timeless design). As an example: http://i.imgur.com/EfGW5.jpg

I feel like that UI would go just fine with a camera or photo-related app.

But it totally doesn't work at all for something that I'm assuming is more along the lines of a magic 8-ball.

But leather and metal are helpful on a camera, as is the cross hatch on the lens.

On an iPhone app cross hatching does not help you grip the control.

The leather on an iPhone app doesn't help protect against scratches or provide a superior gripping surface to polished aluminium.

If you like the idea that good design is as little design as possible then a Leica style app design isn't as little design as possible. In just the same way that a moleskin notepad app isn't helpful, nor is comic sans as a font choice despite that it approximates hand printed letters. Maybe if they really want to make the full experience the 'pen' you use to write letters can run out of ink and then you have to shake the iphone to get more ink.

Design should help the user accomplish tasks not get upvotes on dribble.

I agree. A poorly or out of context metaphor hardly qualifies as skeumorphic to me. there are still some good examples of skeumorphism gone wrong, but it's not the gist of the whole blog

If skeuomorphism didn't have a name, I bet no one would give a shit.

Haha, completely true. It also helps that the name is kinda fun. There were a lot of nerds messing around with XMLHttpRequest back in the day, but it got a lot cooler when Adaptive Path christened it "AJAX."

It has a name because it's been an issue in technology for thousands of years. I first heard the term back in the 1970s when I was in college. Popped up all the time in architecture, engineering, and art history classes. By the late 1970s I was even hearing it used in discussions about software. If you don't understand how skeuomorphism works and effects design, you won't be very good at it.

Like god?

As a designer, I couldn't agree more. Skeuomorphism can be great if done right. Nowadays visual designers (who are wannabee UX folks) think any sexy texture (leather patterns) can increase usability of an app. Even startup founders think the same. They don't realize design is not the shiny new coat of paint, design is how it works. In fact if your users think "it works fine", it means you've done great job. Your objective is not to hear "wow it has sexy design".

I've been a software developer for many years and sexy design sells. For good or bad, that's the way it is.

Somewhat agree. Dropbox didn't sell because it had shiny icons for folders or sexy web interface. It sold because it provided immense value and it just worked. Same can be said about Google, YouTube, Microsoft Word etc. None of them had sexy design to start with but they simply worked and provided great value to end-users.

You've picked apps with necessarily minimal interfaces; the only exception being Microsoft Word. Word doesn't need a new UI every other year but it gets one because, without making the UI sexier each year, people don't buy it.

I like this anecdote from Raymond Chen on this subject: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/oldnewthing/archive/2004/05/25/14125...

"You've picked apps with necessarily minimal interfaces;"

Necessarily? Have we really forgotten what search engine UIs looked like before Google came along?

From a usability standpoint yes, but there are more to it than that. If a purely aesthetic design choice enhance sales or just tailor to the target customers taste it can it self be seen as providing a function.

Remember when you were 4 or so? And you had a "busy box"? Just a bunch of levers to move, buttons to push, dials to turn?

A well-done skeuomorphic interface, I submit, can be a busy box for grownups. What's wrong with having a few things in your life that partake of both "toy" and "tool"?

Do you have an example in mind?

Well, here's a post on the blog under discussion of a brightly-colored UI that definitely has a "busy box" vibe: http://skeu.it/post/28492549355/crysonic

(A lot of music software has this ultra-skeumorphic vibe. I guess to appeal to luddite musicians? Or just because it's fun to do. Maybe both.)

A lot of the skins from Audion ( http://panic.com/audion/index.html ) had a busy box/toy kind of vibe too, though the animation was pretty limited: http://panic.com/audion/gallery/previews/panman.jpg http://panic.com/audion/gallery/previews/contragrav.jpg - the better ones, for me, had this kind of "here's a cool vinyl toy for your desk, except it's virtual, and plays music".

Evidently built by someone with a skeued sense of humor.

I think the main point being made is that the design shouldn't be distracting unless that is the point of the design. For login forms to be hanging from keys, and paper to be hanging from bolted glass panels is nonsense, and a distraction. Unfortunately what different people find appealing, others find distracting, but that's what usage metrics and testing are for- to help determine what does and what doesn't work.

Skeumorphism is including or retaining historical design elements for now non-functional purposes.

The author asserts that Microsoft's Metro design moves away from it, but his screenshot of Metro shows several instances:

- a paper shopping bag icon - MSFT stock symbol - icon of analog alarm clock with bells - gear icon for control panel - manilla folder icon for windows explorer

And does anyone else cringe at the HTML slipping through on AT&amp;T?

The simple fact is that building on previous experience is useful. Anachronistic visual remnants of previous technology can lend familiarity to a new interface, reducing learning curve and increasing acceptance (e.g., rivets on denim jeans).

Sometimes designers go even further and purposely introduce even more skeumorphic elements, going for a "retro" feel.

Some people like it, some people don't. It isn't always done well, and it isn't always done badly.

If the link went to the Fast Company article, your comment would make much more sense!

I'm going to go against what seems to be the opinion of lots of designers and bloggers these days and say: I actually like skeuomorphism, if it's well executed.

EDIT: I'm talking about visuals now. How it affects usability is part of "well executed".

If you're still complaining about this, I'm here to tell you to move on.

Skeu is saccharine, and that's why it sucks. Mouthful of gloss. Yuck.

This reminds me of one of the first biggest lessons I've learned about the web - make it better than reality. Sadly, Jakob Nielsen found this out in 1998 [1] and we still can't get past it.

> It is painful to use the Web, so we need to reward users: give them something new and better that they didn't get before.

[1] http://www.useit.com/alertbox/980308.html

The anti-skeuomorphism crusade is more distracting than the designs it calls out. If I were a designer and if I had any influence, I'd add some gratuitous skeu-ness to a design just to attempt to calm the skeuphobia sweeping the design world.

LOL "COME ON DOWN THE THE SKEU WAREHOUSE! WE’VE GOT LINEN! WE’VE GOT WOOD!" http://dribbble.com/shots/662571-Mo-Tab-bars?list=following



That thing is an audio plugin for music production. That sort of UI is what many producers want, because they want it to resemble the actual hardware they had two decades ago. Whether this thing was an actual product or not doesn't make a difference.

I wonder if skeuomorphic designs will be looked back at and be viewed like we now view the interfaces from the 90s, with huge amounts of bevel and emboss, shadows and gradients.

I believe this will be likely. KPT FTW!

Real quick go at it:


This is pretty awesome, but I wish they had called "Skeu You" instead.

I considered that, but decided the pun was more about my own disappointment than aggression.

Kitsch UI 4tw!

I personally hate recognizing anything. If you think about it, even distinct text characters one next to each other are a skeumorphism from movable type.

Obviously the only correct interface is a simple vertical list where hovering over invisible areas of the screen reads you out loud an option and then clicks it. Actually why read it out loud at all, a skeumorphism from interacting with a person.

The only correct interface is a blank screen representing state with groups of pixels that turn off and on without any skeumorphism, but simply representing the state the program is in. Like the LED light showing whether your monitor is off or on, but 1280x1024 of them.

anything other than that is just art monkey fluff, designers butting into electronics where they don't belong.

a good rule of thumb is: if you recognize what's going on instead of having to decode it, you are dealing with bullshit overpriced overdesigned fluff.

Updated title no longer matches the content of skeu.it, which displays extreme skeu, not just skeu in general or quintessential examples of skeu.

Also, skeu.it is really about textures and fail skeu, not actual skeumorphism, which is about retaining obsolete details from a previous form, not just pleasing textured imagery.

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