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Ask Slashdot: Is the Rise of Skeuomorphic User Interfaces a Problem?

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the add-to-dictionary dept.

GUI 311

An anonymous reader writes "The evolution of user interface design in software is a long one, and has historically tracked the capabilities of computers of the time. Early computers used batch processing which, is mostly unheard of today, and consequently had minimal human interaction. The late 60s saw the introduction of command line interfaces, which remain popular to this day, mostly with technical users. Arguably, what propelled computer use to what it is today is the introduction of the ubiquitous graphical user interface. Although graphical interfaces have evolved, in principle they have remained largely unchanged. The resurgence of Apple saw the rise of skeuomorphic graphical user interfaces, which are now starting to appear on Linux. Are skeuomorphic designs making technology accessible to the masses, or is it simply a case of an unwillingness to innovate and move forward?"

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311 comments

Shit Editors (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161697)

Would it fucking kill you to define a largely unfamiliar term in the goddamned article summary? Jesus christ. Fuck.

Re:Shit Editors (5, Informative)

dopaz (148229) | about 2 years ago | (#41161719)

From the linked Wikipedia article:

"Portion of iCal, calendaring software from Apple Inc.. Skeumorphs in iCal include leather appearance, stitching and remnants of torn pages."

Digital skeuomorphs:

Many music and audio computer programs employ a plugin architecture, and some of the plugins have a skeuomorphic interface to emulate expensive, fragile or obsolete instruments and audio processors. Functional input controls like knobs, buttons, switches and sliders are all careful duplicates of the ones on the original physical device being emulated. Even elements of the original that serve no function, like handles, screws and ventilation holes are graphically reproduced.

The arguments in favor of skeuomorphic design are that it makes it easier for those familiar with the original device to use the digital emulation, and that it is graphically appealing.

The arguments against skeuomorphic design are that skeuomorphic interface elements use metaphors that are more difficult to operate and take up more screen space than standard interface elements; that this breaks operating system interface design standards; that skeuomorphic interface elements rarely incorporate numeric input or feedback for accurately setting a value; and that many users may have no experience with the original device being emulated.

Skeuomorphism is differentiated from path dependence in technology, where functional behavior is maintained when the reasons for its design no longer exist.

One of the earliest examples of a skeuomorphic interface was IBM Real Things.

Re:Shit Editors (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#41161953)

Thanks for doing the legwork on that for us. I'd never heard that word before, though all of us have seen them (if usually just in icons).

I have to say, I think there's a good argument for there being a wide range of acceptable-to-unacceptable, and it depends on the user. Dragging pages into folders and trash cans... that works pretty well for managing a filesystem. Email buttons that look like paper envelopes and pencils to compose... those make sense to me.

When they get really elaborate and abstract (like that Ubuntu app), I get a little less comfortable. I think it's pretty, and some people probably prefer it, but for me that's a bit too dressed-up and abstract for desktop use.

Re:Shit Editors (2, Insightful)

narcc (412956) | about 2 years ago | (#41162159)

Thanks for doing the legwork on that for us

Really? All you had to do was click the word; it's linked to the definition.

It's less work that scanning the comments hoping someone would copy/paste the definition from the page to which that word is linked.

Re:Shit Editors (2)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#41162203)

I don't think it was (and notice the tags). Either way, it was helpful.

Re:Shit Editors (-1, Flamebait)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 2 years ago | (#41162455)

I can't believe we are back to this fucking stupid idea to mimic real things like a fucking faked stamp on a fucking faked envelope with a fucking faked tongue licking the fucking faked stamp and a fucking faked hand to put the fucking faked stamp on the fucking faked envelope and put the fucking faked envelope in a fucking faked mail box, looking at a fucking faked postman picking the fucking faked envelope to put it in a fucking faked bag and riding a fucking fake bicycle to mimic the internet and send this fucking email. What the fuck! Are we that stupids?

Re:Shit Editors (5, Interesting)

williamhb (758070) | about 2 years ago | (#41162673)

The arguments against skeuomorphic design are that skeuomorphic interface elements use metaphors that are more difficult to operate and take up more screen space than standard interface elements; that this breaks operating system interface design standards

Personally I'd argue that skeuomorphic designs are almost certainly worse for usability, but that might be outweighed in marketing by their attractiveness / emotional connections with the product.

In UI design, it seems to me that one of the things you're trying to do is communicate relationships between the various controls, the things they manipulate, etc. And you have a two-dimensional non-tangible interface with which to communicate those relationships. (Even with touch, you're not actually "pressing a button" you're tapping on a coloured region of glass.) The trade-offs that optimise communication are almost certainly different than if you have a tangible three dimensional interface (eg, a physical tape recorder, instead of an audio memo app). In a skeuomorphic app, you do not have the physical haptic pliability of the button to your thumb, just a slightly wobbling brown graphic. In a skeuomorphic app, you do not naturally see the item in three dimensions as you pick it up and its orientation to your eye changes on the journey to a comfortable manipulation distance. You just have a flat graphic of a pretend item from a preset angle. The affordances are different, so the optimum design to help the user achieve their goals is probably different.

The example I'd use is Windows -- over a decade or two it has steadily moved away from previously being skeuomorphic (eg, panels looking like they're in little bevels, buttons looking like square raised things) to something much cleaner. Those bevels etc introduced lines that distracted ("why is my eye drawn to a bevel that does nothing again?") and made an element feel divided from the surrounding controls that they probably wanted to communicated were relevant to it not separated from it.

The exception however is marketing and the attempt to get a purchaser to emotionally engage with an item (rather than find it easy to use). A picture of a beautiful old tape player is probably more appealing at first glance in the Apple Store than a white background with clearly distinct controls. Likewise a slightly harder to use item might feel as if it can do more even if it can't.

Re:Shit Editors (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161833)

Would it fucking kill you to define a largely unfamiliar term in the goddamned article summary? Jesus christ. Fuck.

Use a fucking dictionary. We didn't inherit this marvellous language of ours to be told we are only permitted to use a lowest-common-denominator subset of it that happens to be prevalent amongst uneducated lazy twats.

Re:Shit Editors (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162079)

go fuck yourself

Re:Shit Editors (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162173)

Thank you for your erudite response. Are there skeumorphic controls for this?

Re:Shit Editors (4, Insightful)

mug funky (910186) | about 2 years ago | (#41162199)

no, journalists are taught from day 1 to use simple language.

not for dumbing down, but for brevity - time is money, and if you don't have to reach for a dictionary, you shouldn't.

including the definition, or simplified part of it relevant to the article would have been appropriate and saved the ire of the /. hordes.

Re:Shit Editors (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162733)

not for dumbing down, but for brevity

So brevity demands that we write "interfaces-with-all-too cutesy-allusions-to-real-world-objects" in place of "skeuomorphic?" Several times in each article? Especially when anyone one who has been following discussions in technical press about interface changes in OSX since the release of Lion should be familiar with it. I first read it in the Ars Technica review of Lion and wasn't all that upset at learning a new word.

if you don't have to reach for a dictionary, you shouldn't.

If you are not (at least figuratively) reaching for a dictionary several times a day chances are your vocabulary is no longer growing exponentially. :(

Re:Shit Editors (4, Funny)

narcc (412956) | about 2 years ago | (#41161849)

If only they included a link to something kind of online encyclopedia to define that unfamiliar term...

Damn, this computer shit is fucking complicated. Links: How do they work?

Re:Shit Editors (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162175)

define "Link" you arrogant bastard, not everyone knows the latest jargon.

Re:Shit Editors (3, Insightful)

kingturkey (930819) | about 2 years ago | (#41162195)

Links don't appear in the RSS.

Re:Shit Editors (1)

coaxial (28297) | about 2 years ago | (#41162395)

Links: How do they work?

Computer scientists? They're fuckin' lyin'.

Re:Shit Editors (1)

Cinder6 (894572) | about 2 years ago | (#41162645)

If only they included a link to something kind of online encyclopedia to define that unfamiliar term...

Damn, this computer shit is fucking complicated. Links: How do they work?

Actually, there's a very good reason to define it inline rather than (or in addition to) providing a link: RSS readers. The link doesn't show up in RSS readers (at least not Google reader or my iOS reader), so I had to load the full article, find the (now tiny) link, tap it, and scan the overly wordy Wikipedia article--when all they had to do was add, "(making apps look like real-life things, such as leather)".

Anyways, no, I don't think it's a problem, so long as the skeuomorphic UI doesn't get in the way of work. With that said, I really don't like the OS X Contacts app. There's an example where skeuomorphic sensibilities get in the way of functionality. On the other hand, Calendar works just fine.

Re:Shit Editors (3, Funny)

howlingfrog (211151) | about 2 years ago | (#41162703)

If only hyperlinks were identified by a picture of a computer mouse next to a monitor with a stylized mouse cursor hovered over a picture of a linked chain. You could visit the target of the hyperlink by clicking your real mouse on the left button of the picture of the mouse.

Re:Shit Editors (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161881)

I think you are the only one who doesn't know what it means. Perhaps you are still needed on fark.

Re:Shit Editors (-1, Flamebait)

mvdwege (243851) | about 2 years ago | (#41162217)

Yeah, like it's really so hard to just click the middle mouse button on the Wikipedia link that's right in the bloody summary

Slashdot really needs a '-1, Whiny little twerp' moderation.

Re:Shit Editors (4, Funny)

deek (22697) | about 2 years ago | (#41162375)

I am unfamiliar with this word "Fuck" that you constantly mention. Could you please define it?

Re:Shit Editors (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162647)

I am unfamiliar with this word "Fuck" that you constantly mention. Could you please define it?

Please refer to the Linux kernel source code where "fuck" or a variant of "fuck" is frequentkly used.

Does it matter? (3, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#41161701)

Specifically in the case of Linux, does the presence of skeuomorphic UIs in some applications really matter if the user decides "hey this sucks" and rips it out at the roots and installs something more to their liking?

I don't think any evidence has been provided that shows such UI designs are better than a well laid out traditional UI, but people will try whatever they can. So long as it isn't rammed down my throat, that's fine.

Obligatory Orwell (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 2 years ago | (#41161713)

Certain backward areas have advanced, and various devices always in some way connected with warfare and police espionage have developed, but experiment and invention have largely stopped.

I guess one could/should expand that to "various devices always in some way connected with warfare, police espionage or distracting entertainment".

No time to read now ... (5, Funny)

kgeiger (1339271) | about 2 years ago | (#41161723)

and I cannot find the little floppy disk icon to save the item. Where'd it go?

Re:No time to read now ... (1)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 2 years ago | (#41162029)

I don't know. My vision is a little weak.

I'm trying to find my magnifying glasses so I can find the magnifying glass icon so I can search for the floppy disk icon.

From the Wikipedia Article (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161741)

>One of the earliest examples of a skeuomorphic interface was IBM Real Things.

I know you talk about the resurgence, but please attribute it with the first example - the INNOVATOR.
I'm tired of hearing how Apple "invent" everything.

Re:From the Wikipedia Article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161913)

But they have the patents and the lawyers to prove it!

Re:From the Wikipedia Article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162119)

If you buy enough lawyers, you can change the past!

skeuwhatzit? (4, Insightful)

rueger (210566) | about 2 years ago | (#41161745)

Obviously someone just swallowed a thesaurus and burped out "skeuomorphic".

The linked Wikipedia page describes it thus: "Many music and audio computer programs employ a plugin architecture, and some of the plugins have a skeuomorphic interface to emulate expensive, fragile or obsolete instruments and audio processors. Functional input controls like knobs, buttons, switches and sliders are all careful duplicates of the ones on the original physical device being emulated. Even elements of the original that serve no function, like handles, screws and ventilation holes are graphically reproduced."

First, I'd argue that most software doesn't emulate physical artifacts - we don't "pull" open file drawers for instance. Second, this doesn't sound like anything that's really about GUI, it's just prettying stuff up - much like the concept of "skins."

The Apple reference... oh sigh.

Re:skeuwhatzit? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162073)

Check out these examples from Apple: http://medialoot.com/blog/skeuomorphic-design/

It's the correct term to use, not burped out of a thesaurus.

Re:skeuwhatzit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162289)

Acceptable bit.

Re:skeuwhatzit? (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 years ago | (#41162151)

Most software doesn't, but there is a lot of software that does. Pro audio tools are the worst for that. Reason was the most annoying instances of it I can recall, making a bunch of inconsistently functioning rackmount units, usually having knobs despite being used in a keyboard and mouse environment.

Re:skeuwhatzit? (4, Interesting)

iluvcapra (782887) | about 2 years ago | (#41162425)

Hi, I'm a film sound designer and re-recording mixer in my day job. Knobs and analog gauges are much easier for user population to visualize and interpret. You're dealing with people who have decades of training with analogue equipment -- also, IMHO knobs are a superior widget in many cases, because (if they're implemented properly) you can drag the mouse pointer further away from the knob to increase precision.

Re:skeuwhatzit? (1)

tgv (254536) | about 2 years ago | (#41162649)

Although Reason looks particularly annoying to me (never used it), imitating physical equipment does have a function. Usually, the controls on physical equipment are presented in a logical way, grouping by function, emphasizing important controls, etc. You can call it conventional (in the sense of "based on or in accordance with what is generally done or believed"). If the software mimics (copies, imitates) this, it's because the makers don't have a better idea, so they just copy the old and proven design. This can lead to skeuolositimorphicologition (I made that one up), but it is not so by itself.

And as the GP points out: a lot of it is beautification (making things look nice). In Logic, you can switch your plugins to a view with just the controls. Now that's functional, but very, very annoying.

Ignorance of the history of technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161751)

I feel like it's time for a frank discussion about why so many people, who work in the damn field, have such a shockingly inaccurate knowledge of its roots. The late '60s saw the introduction of a fully graphic user interface with live video.

The mother of all demos. [youtube.com]

Sketchpad, even earlier. [youtube.com]

People weren't stupid, and no, space didn't drive any of the technology related to computers. It's the other way around, technology drove space. But that's another story.

Bad Design (3, Insightful)

countach (534280) | about 2 years ago | (#41161753)

I have to say I fall on the side of saying that skeuomorphic design is bad. The classic one is the latest iPhone podcast app which looks like an old reel to reel tape recorder. I mean I'm in my mid 40s, and I only saw one of these once when I was a tiny child, and even then it was obsolete.

As for the leather bound notes and address apps, I've never owned a leather notes folder and I've never owned an address book with the letters down my side. My mum had one when I was a small child, but I haven't thought about such things for ages. As these devices expand into so many countries and new cultures, I'm sure these references are going to seem even more obscure and ridiculous.

Re:Bad Design (1)

linatux (63153) | about 2 years ago | (#41161829)

Since young'ns don't know what a floppy disk is, the 'Save' icon is lost on them.
Envelopes for email & phones probably won't be far behind.

At least magnifying glasses are still reasonably recognisable for when the font gets too small - now get off my lawn!

Re:Bad Design (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161927)

The "young'ns," having never had to deal with floppy drives, are more likely to expect the icon to actually save the document. Instead of the inevitable bad sector error.

Re:Bad Design (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 2 years ago | (#41162135)

I grew up with floppy disks. IME, they were extremely reliable in the 80s and early and mid 90s. It was rare for them to go bad, unless they'd been mistreated. But towards the end of their reign in the late 90s, they started getting really unreliable. I think this is because they became an afterthought, only included in PCs because of Windows driver disks and inertia, and people weren't using them much, so the drive makers and or the floppy disk makers cut costs, making them very unreliable. Back in the C64 days, those things could really be counted on to save your data, but it wasn't like that when everyone started using the network to transfer files and hard drives had gotten so large than 1.44MB floppies just weren't practical any more for backups or file storage.

Re:Bad Design (1)

mug funky (910186) | about 2 years ago | (#41162257)

the probably got less and less reliable because we kept using those same disks from the 80s :)

the density increased at some point, too.

that said, i once spent a frantic and thankfully successful afternoon re-installing the OS on an archaic piece of telecine hardware that came as a block of 30 3.5" disks. every one of them worked in the c. 1991 disk drive.

the only reason it died in the first place was a power failure while writing to it's internal SCSI disk. you'd think that sort of thing wouldn't corrupt it's filesystem...

Re:Bad Design (1)

An Ominous Coward (13324) | about 2 years ago | (#41162095)

Some minor tweaking and it's an SD card icon, all good.

Re:Bad Design (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 2 years ago | (#41162143)

Some minor tweaking and it's an SD card icon, all good.

Just as useless to a Mac owner as a stack of punchcards.

Re:Bad Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162495)

Every Mac except the 11" Air (space constraint) and the Mac Pro (get a real external reader and connect it to your keyboard) have SD card slots.

Re:Bad Design (1)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#41162423)

Since young'ns don't know what a floppy disk is, the 'Save' icon is lost on them.

Indeed.

I'm going to make you feel old.

http://i.imgur.com/Ml8hc.jpg [imgur.com]

--
BMO

Re:Bad Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162485)

I want to see an icon for opening or saving to removable media that looks like the tape counter on a cassette recorder. Ah yes -- the good old TRS-80 CoCo days: cue up a program on a cassette recorder using the tape counter to find the start, press play, type CLOAD? -- still way better than retyping every time you wanted to use a program. Anyway, anyone seen my lawn? I can't remember where I left it.

Re:Bad Design (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 2 years ago | (#41162563)

Do you actually know what a physical radio button is? You can glean from the words that its a button on a radio, but that doesnt give you a whole lot of information. And yet I bet you use the software versions of radio buttons, and call them as such, without batting an eye. Same with the iconic floppy disk, symbols often outlive what they originally represented, just like probably half the words in this post(post? Will the youngins understand that, they have probably never used a physical bulletin board!)

Re:Bad Design (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 2 years ago | (#41162641)

It's a button like the row on the front of a radio, where you can select one preset radio station by pressing a button. Only one button can be selected at a time.

How do you tune the radio in your car?

Re:Bad Design (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#41161847)

I think the problem is how do you come up with attractive designs that don't borrow from the physical world. The thing about obsolete things is that they stay as that item in the mind and are often distinctive. Even when they don't stay as that item they still can be used as a concrete representation of an abstract concept, take for instance the floppy disk. Even if you don't know what a floppy disk is, you do know its the symbol for "Save" and I think that would be hard to replace.

Sure, we could have spartan UIs with no decoration and they'd still be functional, but they'd lack the attractiveness and little touches like Apple's "stitching" on iCal, things that make Apple products what they are. The digital world is filled with abstract concepts that need an easy reference for people to use. Text takes up too much space if its supposed to be readable so a picture is about the only option and it needs to be distinctive and not easily confused with something else.

Re:Bad Design (4, Insightful)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 2 years ago | (#41162275)

I think the problem is how do you come up with attractive designs that don't borrow from the physical world.

As opposed to the problem of coming up with attractive designs that do borrow from the physical world, which is a problem that iCal and Address Book, by virtue of looking like ass in their skeuomorphic versions, don't solve.

Re:Bad Design (0)

epyT-R (613989) | about 2 years ago | (#41162401)

it's possible to create aesthetic interfaces that don't have gimmicks like 'stitched leather.' I hate that crap.

Re:Bad Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161899)

I think it can go either way. I totally agree with you about the podcast app. However, the problem is not the skeuomorphism per se, it's that the interface loses usability because of it. Instead of a simple nested table view with categories, subcategories, and stations, you have to precisely turn that stupid dial and read the tiny text as it comes into view.

Skeuomorphism in other interfaces doesn't bother me at all. I kind of like that the calendar looks like a leather calendar. It looks nice, and makes the interface more fun to use, while not taking away any function. All the functions are accessible with standard buttons and displays.

Like any technique, it can be used both for good and bad.

Can be good, but often is not (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#41161907)

As for the leather bound notes and address apps

I agree those are annoying. However, there is a difference between skinning and real skeuomorphic design at work here.

The Mac desktop Calendar app? Sure it looks like leather but in no way does thinking of it like any kind of traditional leather-bound thing you may have known help you figure out how to work with it.

The iPad Calendar app is better in this regard. Same leather look, only now it looks like two tall facing pages. Because it looks like pages you expect you can "turn" them - and that does work, with a drag. Then you notice as you do this that the bar at the bottom changes, so you realize you can interact with that directly and so on. There the design is really somewhat skeuomorphic in that it's helping use your understanding of how real books work to figure out some of the non-intuitive interface controls (since gestures are always invisible and hard to discover).

In the end perhaps the only area where skeuomorphic design really adds anything is in leading people to discover these otherwise hard to discover controls in a UI. But it seems like you always have to have some kind of more direct control also or else some people can and will get confused. Skeuomorphic design then seems more like a limited technique than an area that all design will move towards.

Re:Bad Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161963)

While I agree the new Podcasts app goes a little too far I have two points:

1. How can an app released within the last 60 days be a "classic" example?
2. Reel to reel tape is still used widely in music production and broadcasting. Just because you've only seen one in your entire life doesn't mean they aren't still around.

Re:Bad Design (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#41162061)

1. How can an app released within the last 60 days be a "classic" example?

Canonical would have been a better term to use, I think it's what was meant...

2. Reel to reel tape is still used widely in music production and broadcasting. Just because you've only seen one in your entire life doesn't mean they aren't still around.

Yes but what is the intersection of the total number of people who own iPhones and music/production broadcasting types who work with tape? I think skeuomorphic designs only really make some sense when the thing they are mimicking is more universal in understanding, otherwise you are just adding a layer of confusion.

Re:Bad Design (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#41162331)

Yes, but it looks better. It gives the UI a consistent design metaphor, something to design around besides the default GUI toolkit. I mean, which looks better: the stolen design metaphor, [niemanlab.org] or the default UI elements [ggpht.com] ?

Ideally, a creative artist could come up with something that breaks free from the constraints of reality, and transcends traditional UI design to become something great. Until we have such a Neo-Picasso, using physical objects as a design metaphor is better than design dictated by default UI elements.

Now, if they somehow become more difficult to use because of their metaphor, then that's a true fail. Form must follow function, but in the case of the podcast player, I think they found a good balance.

Re:Bad Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162383)

If you are in your mid 40s and saw a reel to reel recorder as a child, well, it wasn't obsolete then.

Re:Bad Design (1)

cgenman (325138) | about 2 years ago | (#41162477)

In this case it seems like the issue isn't necessarily skeuomorphic relevance but the iconicness of the skeuomorphism chosen. Setting up your preferences doesn't need gears to turn, but in this case that older required interface clearly communicates the intended usage. A notepad app that looks like a yellow sticky, in my opinion, triggers certain automatic assumptions about the usage and impermanence of the data. Again, that's useful. On the other side, the Game Center app that looks like a craps table is downright awful: The colors clash with the text, making it harder to read. The mental context is all wrong for an achievement-driven system ( as oppose to a chance-driven system). Or those old websites that made you "tap the front door to enter." In that case, an old metaphor was just wasting user's time.

Like all things design, within the areas where the old state is iconic and communicates well, skeuomorphic design can help people understand quickly and easily what is going on. Done poorly, it communicates the wrong thing or nothing at all.

Must be a slow news week. (3, Funny)

iplayfast (166447) | about 2 years ago | (#41161767)

After looking up skeuomorphic and realizing that it meant current designs that reflect the original designs where the current design is cosmetic, and the original was practical I realized that this is a very stupid article.

Apple is progressively moving towards fewer and fewer button.
Windows are doing their windows 8 thing.
Ubuntu was a 1 hour try before giving up on their unity interface.
Kde is still my favourite. (It's like the Rolls Royce of UI IMHO)
Gnome is the kid who never get's used but always gets installed.

What does this have to do with maintaining cosmetic designs I have no idea. I think the guy picked a word out of a hat in order to get a link to postman deliver aps spot on the front page.
Good job...
 

rise? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161775)

I would hardly say there's a "rise". The mail "envelope", the attachment "paperclip", the color "palette", the directory "folder" icon, the clock represented as an "analog dial", the video "movie reel"...

Re:rise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161793)

^--- which have all been around for many many years.

Re:rise? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 2 years ago | (#41162153)

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. They've been trying to emulate old-fashioned desktops with GUIs ever since GUIs became available for consumers. That's why they even call them "desktops", and why the main screen in Windows (well, until Metro) is called "your desktop", with items on it going in the "Desktop" folder.

Now that I've learned a new word... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161779)

No.

And the answer is... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161801)

No.

trend towards simplification/less capability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161811)

Command lines are vastly more powerful than traditional GUIs, which are in turn more powerful than the new crop of phone/tablet interfaces.

At each stage, the interface is simplified, but at the cost of power and flexibility. As computers become little more than media consumption devices, the natural tendency is towards extremely simplified forms of user interaction.

Re:trend towards simplification/less capability (1)

brantondaveperson (1023687) | about 2 years ago | (#41161869)

Photoshop isn't so useful on the command line though.

Re:trend towards simplification/less capability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161947)

To someone who hasn't spent multiple months or more with it, Photoshop isn't all that useful in the UI, either.

Re:trend towards simplification/less capability (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 years ago | (#41162201)

True, but the majority of it's real world usage today, making image macros, is well handled by software like imagemagick, which has led to websites that basically provide a command line interface to users

Re:trend towards simplification/less capability (1)

erp_consultant (2614861) | about 2 years ago | (#41161981)

"Command lines are vastly more powerful than traditional GUIs" - sure but how many people can actually use it? I have to keep reminding myself that most people aren't like us. For whatever reason...lack of time, lack of interest, lack of intellect...they just don't care about the intricacies of how the computer works. They simply want to use it to perform some basic tasks like surf the web or write an email or send an instant message. To them it's like a microwave oven.

Personally I think it's good that computers are now easy enough for just about anyone to use. After all, you shouldn't have to be a mechanic to drive a car. I think back to the days of DOS and there is just no way I could imagine my mom or dad using a computer. Too complex, too abstract, too geeky. But now with a modern Windows or Mac computer tasks become easy and fun. I'd say that's progress.

Re:trend towards simplification/less capability (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#41162081)

"Command lines are vastly more powerful than traditional GUIs" - sure but how many people can actually use it?

The only thing stopping most people from being able to use a command line is their own perception that command lines are hard to use, and the difficulty that they encounter when they try is largely psychomatic

In reality, a command line is extremely simple for anybody to learn, with the caveat that a certain degree of literacy is required. Half the battle is just getting to a place psychologically where one genuinely wants to learn it.

Is it as easy as a GUI? No. But it's not hard. And once accustomed to it, there's no small amount of things that are far easier and faster.

Re:trend towards simplification/less capability (3, Interesting)

erp_consultant (2614861) | about 2 years ago | (#41162259)

The command line is powerful, I'll give you that. But it's also cryptic as all-get-out to the average person. "ps -eo pid,user,args --sort user". Really? Try explaining that one to Aunt Mildred who just wants to check her pictures on facebook. Maybe she can just go check the "man" pages...that should make it as clear as mud to her. To a non technical person that stuff is absolute gibberish. Seriously - it might as well be written in Mandarin.

Look - I like using the CLI and I use it a lot. It's fast and powerful. But for the average user you've got to dumb it down for them. Give them a big button in the middle of the screen and they are happy. That's why tablets are so popular.

CLI expertise gives you geek cred but it will never see mass adoption. The GUI is here to stay. I'm not so sure I like the IOS trend of dumbing things down even further, at the expense of power and usability, but it has clearly been successful.

Finally! (4, Funny)

tpstigers (1075021) | about 2 years ago | (#41161841)

I've been waiting years for a chance to use 'skeuomorphic' in a conversation.

Re:Finally! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161917)

So, use it already, instead of just referring to it as you did here!

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161989)

BURP!!!!

Oh, excuse me. =D

Re:Finally! (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 2 years ago | (#41162435)

Like: I plan to skeuomorph a bit on Facebook this week-end, and you?

Is this applicable anymore? (4, Interesting)

Latentius (2557506) | about 2 years ago | (#41161845)

This might have been a question to ask perhaps 5-10 years ago, when such things were all the rage (brushed metal, faux glass, reflections, etc.), but it seems that of late, between interfaces like Android (especially Honeycomb and later) or Microsoft's Metro, things have been taking a sharp turn away from skeuomorphism and decidedly towards an unabashedly digital styling.

Re:Is this applicable anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161987)

Point taken with Android, but Isn't metro based on the metro billboards one might see in a subway?

Re:Is this applicable anymore? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162247)

but it's not really designed to look like a billboard...

Yes in the non-apple world skeuomorphism is thankfully fading, actually I believe that metro was designed to be the exact opposite in contrast to Apple..

Take a look at an ipad, most apps are skeuomorphic.. Notepad app show gfx that makes is look leather bound and tghe pages as lines on them like notebook paper..

God I hate that...

Move forward? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161891)

"Batch processing" is not mostly unheard of. It still exists as an important component of all modern operating systems. Ever heard of cron jobs or process scheduling? Both of these require you to write code (or rather script, in the case of cron), but it's still a form of input to the OS.

After batch jobs came CLIs, which are also essential, but for other forms of user interaction where you don't want to go through the firewall that some graphical designer put in the way of you.

Mouse-and-keyboard-GUIs, such as for desktop computers, are good if you only need to perform the most common actions. The mouse combined with graphics is also an efficient way to deal with 2D representations of the system.

Touchscreen based computers appear to be good for people that barely ever bother to change the settings of the program they use. While I could never imagine myself in this category, I understand the need and I think that it's an interesting step.

The best solution is to use the right tool for the job. This could mean that you have a computer with all of these forms of input, or a selection of them that best suit your needs. An example scenario: use a tablet to see the status of your server park, a GUI to perform basic tasks such as restarting servers, a CLI when hardware needs to be fixed and use cronjobs to rotate the logs into a dedicated log server.

On topic: I have no idea what you mean with skeumorphic GUIs, but either they are a useless fad or they can work side by side to other forms of UIs. Nothing will replace anything.

Re:Move forward? (1)

spauldo (118058) | about 2 years ago | (#41162581)

"Batch processing" is not mostly unheard of. It still exists as an important component of all modern operating systems.

I would imagine the percentage of computer users in 1960 who were familiar with batch processing is much higher than the percentage of computer users who are famiiar with it now.

Touchscreen based computers appear to be good for people that barely ever bother to change the settings of the program they use. While I could never imagine myself in this category, I understand the need and I think that it's an interesting step.

Touchscreens were, until the advent of the PDA and cell phone, relegated to specialized computing. The ATM at my bank is a perfect example, or the fuel kiosk at Pilot truck stops you can use to print fuel receipts and track your points. They're popular on PDAs and cell phones because small keyboards are difficult to use and pointing devices such as trackballs are slow.

On topic: I have no idea what you mean with skeumorphic GUIs, but either they are a useless fad or they can work side by side to other forms of UIs. Nothing will replace anything.

It means a GUI that looks like a real world object. Think of how winamp tries to look like a stereo, or how Windows displays directories as "folders". In some cases (like the folders), it's done to help new users understand concepts like hierarchal data structures. In others (winamp, ical, pretty much any sound effect program, etc.) it's done to look cool*. As far as not replacing anything, there was a while where you had a very hard time finding mp3 playing software that used regular widgets.

It's becoming a lot more common with cell phones these days.

* It usually doesn't.

Ubuntu (1)

beef623 (998368) | about 2 years ago | (#41161893)

Have you seen Ubuntu lately? It's basically OSX lite these days so it's not really any big surprise that they're borrowing a few more of Apple's designs.

Re:Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41161975)

Do you mean Unity? Unity bears zero resemblance to OSX. It *does* resemble IOS, at least in the sense that it is reducing the amount of power available in the UI in order to make it (cough) easier to use.

But OSX is an enormously powerful system from GUI to command line to widgetry to backups and update mechanisms. It resembles Unity not at all.

Unity and Metro are both tipping points in that they are the first OSs on desktops where instead of the new OS hotness increasing user power, they take it away.

Personally, neither one is of any interest at all. But I'm a geek, and that's just how I roll. I suspect grandma and grandpa are what the marketers are focused on today, not me. Although I *am* a grandpa, lol.

Re:Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162221)

But OSX is an enormously powerful system from GUI to command line to widgetry to backups and update mechanisms.

Yeah, OSX users only have to do two update processes: (A)/Software update... and App Store/Updates. I can see how two separate steps for updates are so much better than the single update-manager under Ubuntu.

Re:Ubuntu (1)

beef623 (998368) | about 2 years ago | (#41162421)

Yes, a lot of it is Unity, but in general Ubuntu is drifting closer and closer to the Mac side of the house than previous versions, and quite a bit closer than any other linux distro I've used.

I don't see much resemblance to iOS, but a default install of Ubuntu 12 looks very Mac like. The minimize/maximize/close icons default to the left side of the window (and require jumping through hoops to move them back to the right), the unity launcher looks and behaves very much like the dock and the style of the icons and top menu bar appear very Macish. Also, like you mentioned, there are fewer and fewer customization options available from the UI which is very Apple-like. Oh, and like OP said, the whole skeuomorphic thing.

Yes (5, Interesting)

ubrkl (310861) | about 2 years ago | (#41161921)

Yes it is a problem, and seems to be taking us backward in terms of usability. Apple is the worst for this, imo, their iPhone interface for setting an alarm is abysmal, hard to use with any accuracy, because you're sliding dials around, which have physics attached to them. So instead of being able to type in: 7, 3, 0 on a keypad, you're forced to deal with 3 different dials, pushing up & down until it gets it right. (It also stinks of 'hey, lets use multitouch for EVERYTHING).

Also, accessibility takes a hit, as you're now dealing with pictures of physical things, and all people are left with are the equivalent of ALT tags on images with image maps.

Re:Yes (1)

blackpaw (240313) | about 2 years ago | (#41162279)

God yes. I remember when the QuickTimer player changed its volume control from a simple linear slider to a teeny *knob* that you had to rotate with a mouse. It was incredibly painful and easy to get wrong.

I'm still searching for a VOIP app that doesn't try to mimic a cell phone. I guess I should be grateful they don't try and use a rotary dial interface.

Hint for future "Ask Slashdot" articles (3, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 years ago | (#41162099)

Avoid unfamiliar terms, even if you link to a page explaining them. As you can see, 90% of the discussion here is about how an unusual word was used where GUI would have served the same purpose, which not only takes away a lot of space from a discussion about the actual question, but also made me skip pretty much all of it because I didn't come here to discuss the pros and cons of showing off ones word stock but whether GUIs are troubling. But now, instead, I wrote this note, which adds about as much to the actual discussion, but might serve you as a reminder to avoid things that take away attention from the actual question you're asking.

It's all about user acceptance (1)

DontLickJesus (1141027) | about 2 years ago | (#41162117)

In order for user interfaces to be able to move away from skeuomorphic techniques one has to consider the willingness of the audience. Web design has been a great test bed for this very things. For many years using anything beyond the base set of html controls + date pickers was considered largely pointless, as businesses needed interfaces that took very little training. As the web evolved into a more entertainment oriented place, technologies like DHTML, Flash, and Javascript allowed designers to experiment with things like sliders, switches, and different types of paging. Apple capitalized on this by taking the best new controls created and built them into the iPhone, which worked so well it gave designers a much larger base set to work with.

In short, introducing stripped down UI's or new controls tend not to succeed when they are forced or simply swapped in because they are "more efficient". They are versioned in for a reason, because people need time to adapt to change.

As for "useless areas or designs" such as torn edges or leather borders, this is all about aesthetic. It's doesn't take a scientist to understand that people like things to look appealing. In the same manner a gamer loves his graphics to look as realistic as possible, so does any other user who sees imitation materials on their screen. Well designed abstract or purely digital layouts can look very nice, but they do not invoke most people's sense of value and worth. Furthering skeuomorphic techniques allows designers the license to introduce other larger changes (like new controls) with little more cushioning than some UI customization.

Re:It's all about user acceptance (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 2 years ago | (#41162305)

As for "useless areas or designs" such as torn edges or leather borders, this is all about aesthetic. It's doesn't take a scientist to understand that people like things to look appealing. In the same manner a gamer loves his graphics to look as realistic as possible, so does any other user who sees imitation materials on their screen. Well designed abstract or purely digital layouts can look very nice, but they do not invoke most people's sense of value and worth.

And they also don't invoke most people's sense of "who's the fucking idiot who decided that making iCal look like a type of calendar that most people these days have never used is more important than having enough fucking contrast between text and background, even in the title bar/toolbar?" The only people who are used to that type of calendar are older people who need the contrast the most.

(At least in Mountain Lion they apparently realized that the three-pane view in Address Book is actually useful, and that there's nothing usefully "skeuomorphic" about turning the pages in a book by clicking on a fucking bookmark ribbon.)

No Thank You (1)

dodex1k (2712675) | about 2 years ago | (#41162123)

If a "skeuomorphic" GUI is meant to resemble a physical desktop space, then I don't think it's a very good idea. The more a workspace attempts to graphically simulate a real space, the more system resources are wasted. Development time is squandered on tuning appearance rather than performance. I think both technical users and everyday users prefer a program that is simple and functional. Imagine how resource heavy OpenOffice would be if it simulated pen strokes as you typed. Yuck. Users are plenty capable of learning how to use software that don't resemble real world objects.

Apple v. Samsung (5, Funny)

nri (149893) | about 2 years ago | (#41162133)

Didn't Samsung just do that to Apple ? Made it look familiar, like an iPhone, but underneath its a sh1t load better :-)

I don't see the issue (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162181)

It's just design. There are going to be some instances that work really well and others that are not so great. There will always be people that complain about things that look pretty, preferring to spend their time in front of a command line.

Skeuomorphic design is just in fashion at the moment. Hardware goes through design fads too. Brushed aluminium, wood grain, gloss white, matte black, bright colours, etc.

Just goes to show... (2)

scdeimos (632778) | about 2 years ago | (#41162183)

The more they Think Different, the more they think the same.

No Yes Maybe (1)

mveloso (325617) | about 2 years ago | (#41162185)

We are living in the modern aesthetic, as defined by the Bauhaus et al back in the day.

There isn't anything inherently wrong with other aesthetics. Form should follow function, but that doesn't mean you can't embellish things a bit.

I mean, there's no reason to be a Nazi about it.

Digital stuff is totally plastic - look at something like Bombardier's Guild on the iPhone: it has a ridiculously fun steampunk look. Why not?

Slashdot Comments Suck Now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162231)

Is it just me, or is there a complete lack of modding up useful comments on slashdot now, and modding down trifling buffoonery? It seems slashdot has gone to the 13-year-olds. Too bad, so sad. When the most popular comments are the most intellectually void, what has slashdot become? A haven for elitist flamers. Go slashdot.

Batch processing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162263)

Hate to break it to you but batch processing lives on strong. Anyone worth his/her salt has written scripts to handle stuff. Take a look at Debian for example; the whole build system is a one gigantic batch processing tool that takes the submitted code packages, builds them of reach CPU architecture performing multitude of tests and packages them up and distributes the packages to repositories. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Perhaps you meant in the UI design sense "batch processing doesn't exist". It's actually quite the opposite; systems that work without UI are the ultimate expression of working. It always works, it doesn't need an UI. UX is that it just works.

Microsoft BOB (1)

LaughingRadish (2694765) | about 2 years ago | (#41162337)

Why has nobody mentioned the penultimate in skeumorphic design, Microsoft BOB?

Re:Microsoft BOB (1)

hduff (570443) | about 2 years ago | (#41162665)

Why has nobody mentioned the penultimate in skeumorphic design, Microsoft BOB?

Some things are best left unsaid, that's why.

unwillingness... (1)

l3v1 (787564) | about 2 years ago | (#41162609)

" Are skeuomorphic designs making technology accessible to the masses, or is it simply a case of an unwillingness to innovate and move forward?""

Neither. It's a move backwards in every sense of the word (Bob is calling and want you back in the middle ages). And we can thank it to Apple (oh my, just look at their sk.m. UIs lately), since lots of people mimic them just because they are Apple.

Probably neither (3, Interesting)

Pikewake (217555) | about 2 years ago | (#41162749)

The only type of software I've seen where this is the norm is music software, especially VST plugins.
I guess the thought behind this is: "If you emulate the sound of a classic synthesizer, why not emulate the look-and-feel of it as well?"
Of course it is easier for someone who has actually played the physical instrument to find the correct controls, but I think it's more a question of aesthetics than usability.
The idea has carried over to instruments and effects that have no physical counterpart: If you have an analogue-sounding synth you'll get knobs and patch cables ( moog style); if it's a FM synth you'll probably see a lot of labled push-buttons (Yamaha DX7) and so on.
Electronic musicians love their gadgets and now that we don't fiddle with actual knobs and sliders anymore, we still like to be reminded of them in the UI.
Still, I don't think this represent "an unwillingness to move forward". Maybe part nostalgia and part the fact that these devices looked great and inspired you to play them.

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