History is not a line, but a spiral. In recent years, many of the waves and trends from the previous era are being reborn. This is because all these new shapes and forms reflect their former selves from the past. At the same time, in digital and web design, things are a bit more complicated.
Skeuomorphism is the first known method used to portray real-world things online. It means that pictograms, icons, and buttons resembled their design from real-life objects. Some time ago these resemblances helped people get around the scary and strange digital space. Furthermore, they were familiar to the general public. That is why using skeuomorphism in web design was a logical solution at that time.
Nowadays, many web design trendsetters and designers think that the modern web design does not need skeuomorphism anymore. Generally, there are three opinions why skeuomorphism should be buried:
- An outdated approach
Imagine how an individual who had no experience with a physical interaction. How he or she will get one? This process can be far more difficult than it seems at first glance. For example, imagine how a person switches a physical slider with a lift of thumb, and then how he or she clicks a digital one. There is a core difference between these two action, isn’t it? That is because a direct physical interface are not similar to digital experiences. Considering that the digital UX has already become the axiom to millennials, it may be difficult for them to use old-fashion toggle switches and buttons.This one of the strongest arguments against skeuomorphism in its traditional meaning.
- A lack of adaptability
The modern web is all about adaptability. With so many websites available, the time spent on a single site is limited. Any site is doomed if it is too bad to adapt, or too slow to load. From this perspective, skeuomorphism is not a perfect choice due to a poor adaptability. However, people like vivid visual experiences and animations. So it will be is correct to say that for the modern web the wise solution would be to maintain the balance between speed and beauty.
- Too Rough
Skeuomorphic elements in web design are too aesthetically excessive to the keen eye, while the modern web design is more about easily comprehensible, laconic forms. Conceptual design allows to create things that look aesthetically furnished and complete, as opposed to the elements that have to portray real-world elements. For example, it is almost impossible to build a skeuomorphic design, and not make it look like fish and meat in the same dish.
Wait a minute!
All above arguments convinced you that skeuomorphism in web design is about to die? Not so fast. As we said in the beginning, history is a spiral. That is why it is expected that skeuomorphism will return as a mainstream trend in the nearest future! Let us take a look at some examples where our old friend is surprisingly alive.
VR-adaptive & AR websites inaugurate the return of skeuomorphic design due to an immense potential for storytelling. Imagine a hotel website that allows to explore a room from every possible position. Or test driving a motorbike before deciding whether or not to buy it. In these cases, skeuomorphism is probably the best solution.
Skeuomorphism for the seniors
My mother is 63, and she has recently started using Facebook. The early versions of the interface were a piece of cake for her, she dealt pretty well with them. A tab-like navigation, blocks, and buttons resembled a working desk, intuitive experience. But after several updates, my mom began to have trouble using Facebook. Currently, just like most of the modern social media, Facebook has a flat UI version . It may seem practical to a millennium generation, but not to the seniors. Those people no longer feel the need to race for the trends. They like all things that are timeless and simple just as those old rotary phones. That is why skeuomorphic elements feel obvious and authentic on websites aimed at 40+, 50+ and even 60+.
This is where skeuomorphism can help. If you want your customers to emotionally relate to your service, you will portray it as realistically as possible. Those zippers, wraps, switches, and buttons let the customers feel and try your product just as if they were holding it in their hands.
Thousands of skeuomorphic elements are showing us how to behave and act in the digital world. And once we’ve mastered the ways of the virtual, once we’ve learned, we may yet again consider real-world resemblances to be too excessive and redundant. However, in some time, we will definitely find ourselves in need of them again.