Skeuomorphism Is Not A Flat View

Sometimes I believe that many of today’s designers are pretty good at listening to other designers, but really bad at hearing or knowing users. Sometimes designs spring from a bubble (round, yes) but end up flat.

The cool designers tell us this is the new thing, and everyone jumps.

I’ve written on the Flat vs Skeu debate already. Because I keep seeing so much hoopla still over flat design, I just wanted to share with you a couple of pretty interesting discoveries I’ve read about recently.

First, the Earth is NOT flat. What’s wrong with a round shape? In my opinion, it’s just a more interesting shape and adds to an emotional experience that flat often lacks.

But, if you’re a flat believer, don’t forget what true flat leads to.

Anything in an interface that resembles anything you can see in real life must be quashed. It’s the only way to faithfully implement flat design.

Oh … and please,

Please read this article, Flat Design: Towards a Flatter Earth. It might leave you with a smile or even an LOL.

Okay, maybe flat design won’t lead to the extreme results of the last image in the link above. However, James Offer does provide a pretty bleak view of a flat Earth design. Do we toss out buttons because they’re too skeuo? Probably not. Yet, if users are already having a problem figuring out where a button is in a flat design approach, has the user experience really moved forward?

Also, I’m already getting pretty tired and bored of many of the flat designs I’ve seen. The web flat design approach is barely taking off too. Will others get tired of it quickly? Did you know that there’s a thing now called long shadow design? It attempts to add some depth to flat design. Soon, we might be back at skeuomorphism.

Besides removing an emotional feeling often tied to skeuomorphism, flat design may be flattening the appeal of products as users try to find something that works, but is also enjoyable to use while being intuitive along the way. When a purely minimalistic design is chosen because “all the cool kids are doing it”, it helps performance (I want to see the data on that one since we’ve been doing skeuo for some time now, rather successfully), and all that function over form ideology, something is wrong and very much missing.

What’s obviously missing from the equation is a well rounded user experience – and users. Even if performance is improved, what’s the price for users who see your product just like everyone else’s – lacking personality and creative flaire? Just because something functions, doesn’t mean you own the user experience. It just means the user experience is being defined in a very narrow way. The user experience though involves the emotion that a product produces. Form plays a role. As in the real world, form makes an impression. This is still true in a digital world.

A flat Earth, just doesn’t go far. It doesn’t offer much emotional appeal.

Okay, good flat design is not easy to do. We hear that too. Even when it is done right by the experts, how quickly it becomes just another thing. That’s after users have been forced to figure out what is a button and forced to peer at each icon more closely.

Quack, quack, quack ….

Maybe that’s what you’re reading about now.

My opinions are simply my opinions, but I’ve been around this block. As a designer, I try not to allow the latest trends to dictate what a good user experience is – especially, when I try to keep my ears to the ground and hear what all users are really saying. As a product manager, the information we gather through real life interaction with users is a golden source of UE wisdom and indication of which trends will last and which ones may fall flat.

Jakob Nielsen’s case study and experience in this matter also provides a warning that shouldn’t be ignored. He’s definitely been around this block.

Okay, please, please, read this last article :

Tablet Usability: Findings from User Research

At the end of the day, balance is key. Too much skeuo can ruin a good thing too. However, I personally enjoy a rounder view. It’s part of a good user experience for me. It’s the way the Earth is.

What’s wrong with a rounder view? Nothing at all.

Rounder Snow White

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