09.02.12

Skeuomorphism in UI

A skeuomorph, or skeuomorphism, is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original.

The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 1971. Volume II, page 4064.

The biggest challenge in UI/visual design is to give personality to a design while remaining easy to use. This is where skeuomorphism comes into play. Adding shadows, textures and gradients to a design is to bring familiarity to the user. It's to remind them that a button is a button and it is press-able, or a switch is a switch and can be toggled.

But how much is too much? The human eye and brain processes every pixel, forming these comfortable "scenes" so a user knows what to do even if they have never seen the design before. There is a fine line, though, because you don't want users to spend their valuable time processing a background texture when they should be focusing on content. The more shadows, textures and gradients a design has, the more time it takes a user to process.

Next time you want to add paper to your design, stop and remember that: If your design gets in the way of function, you are doing it all wrong.

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