19 June 2013

Ramblings about skeuomorphs

Amid the revealing of iOS 7, I started using a new app call Do It Tomorrow. This app is very skeuomorphrific. It not only looks like hand-written notes in a paper notebook, it also includes the desk, pen, coffee, coffee stains, &c.

During the WWDC keynote, Apple suggested that the most important thing about a product is “How it will make someone feel.” I argue that skeuomorphs are not about usability but about how they make some users feel. Indeed, I don’t think the skeuomorphs in Do It Tomorrow make the app more usable, but they do make it—for me—more enjoyable.

Rene Ritchie says iOS 7 is most skeuomorphic iOS yet.

One of the key aspects of Apple’s iOS devices is that they become each app.† The app takes up the full screen. The screen is how the user interacts with the app. The hardware beyond the touch-screen is designed to not distract from the app. In iOS 7, there are system things that can temporarily intrude—notification center from above and control center from below—but these are translucent overlays that emphasize the the device is still primarily the app. Well, Apple is actually emphasizing content now, but sometimes the app itself is content. Skeuomorphs can be content.

Speaking of notification center and control center in iOS 7, they appear glass and plastic, respectively, to me.

Guitar effects apps are an area where skeuomorphs are common. While I’d certainly like to see some more entries in that category that take a skeuomorphless approach, the look of guitar gear can be an important part of the feel.

So, despite Apple’s move away from skeuomorphs, I hope that some apps will still provide skeuomorphic options for those users who enjoy them.

†It occurs to me that this works directly against the sort of split-screen mode I have always wanted in iOS.

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