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Why does my iPad calendar app look like a leather desk set from the 1940s?
We make new things look like old things because the old is familiar: it helps with usability, it makes us safer, and it's cute. Our mobile phones have replaced pads of paper and physical dials with touchscreens that have pictures of these things on them. Our digital cameras play a prerecorded shutter sound when we press the button because that's how our old cameras told us the picture was taken.
Their ability to both delight and confuse is profound - skeuomorphic touches will invariably get oohs and aahs at design reviews and from users. Yet in the quest for familiarity and nostalgia, these flourishes can perpetuate interfaces that only made sense given past technical limitations or, worse, suggest vintage mental models that are out of sync with the product's modern features.
Come listen to a light-hearted discussion about the what and the why of this increasingly common design pattern and how designers can leverage everything that's cute and rich about skeuomorphs without compromising mental models or a polished product.
WHY IS THIS RELEVANT?Touch interfacesWere usingour handsTheyre newtechnology
REFERENCES TO FAMILIAR OBJECTS 1984 2010 desktop metaphor helps physical metaphors the transition to graphical (skeuomorphs) help transition interfaces to touch interfaces
“When appropriate, add a realistic, physical dimensionto your application. Often, the more true to life yourapplication looks and behaves, the easier it is for peopleto understand how it works and the more they enjoyusing it.” — iOS Human Interface Guidelines
“Dig, however, the page-curl animation (beautifullyrendered, but stick-in-the-craw wrong) in iBooks. Feastyour eyes on the leatherette Executive Desk Blotternonsense going on in Notes. Open up Calendar, with itstwee spiral-bound conceit, and gaze into the face of Fear.What are these but misguided coddles, patronizingcrutches, interactively horseless carriages?” — Adam Green eld
WHICH IS THE IDEAL READING EXPERIENCE? iBooks Kindle
WHAT IS THIS DEVICE FOR?Its barely a device;its a book.Skeuomorphsdeemphasizethe technologyin favor of the utility.
WHICH IS BETTER GIVEN THE TECHNOLOGY? skeuomorphic compass camera-enabled compass
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?Use skeuomorphs to add a satisfying or nostalgicemotional e ect.Bridge gaps between what people are used toand a new method with skeuomorphs.Question whether youre skipping the opportunityfor innovation by using a skeuomorph.Dont mismatch your functionalityand your skeuomorph.
Two goals for our users:1. GET THINGS DONE 2. SMILE
Two goals for our users:1. GET THINGS DONE 2. SMILESkeuomorphism can help.* (*if done well)
“Usable designs are not necessarily enjoyable to use...an attractive design is not necessarily the most e cient.But must these attributes be in con ict? Can beauty andbrains, pleasure and usability, go hand in hand?” — Don Norman
THANK YOU. WRITING BY Fred Beecher, Ben Brooks, Adam Green eld, John Pavlus, Steven Poole, Dorian Taylor, Timothy Taylor, Aaron Weyenberg, and Quora users like you. PHOTOS BY anitakhart on ickr, museum_girl on ickr, captkodak on ickr, taberandrew on ickr, Matt Groening, Penny Arcade, innerauto.com, nissanusa.com, and the iOS App Store.
a Andrew Watterson is a designer. www.andrewwatterson.com @andrewwatterson Meebo is totally hiring. www.meebo.com/jobs