Digital skeuomorphs

Can skeuomorphs be used to enhance web page appearance?

by Dan

Before we discuss whether skeuomorphs are a good idea for web page design, perhaps it is a good idea to describe what a skeuomorph is. A design concept that uses the psychology of familiarity by giving a visual representation to the user to identify real life objects with virtual objects is what a skeuomorph is. Confused? Don’t be. Read on and you will understand.

Digital skeuomorphsWhat a skeuomorph does is makes it possible for some features to emulate real life features. Imagine you are tearing a page from your notebook – well, if you do it on the virtual notebook, it will leave similar images behind. Skeuomorphs make your virtual reality closer to the living reality.  But although this sounds very cool, and is almost artistic, skeuomorphs can take up a lot of space on webpages and are likely to create many more errors that normal graphics would.

The question now is, will skeuomorphs enhance your webpage or reduce its functionality? That really depends on how you use them. The online community is divided on the issue. Those for it seem to obviously think that the familiar design will help users connect to the app and will keep them coming. It’ll create a personal interest in the application or webpage. But those against it may be more utilitarian, and contrastingly also more freethinking. They seem to think that creativity might be hampered. If we are only trying to copy what the real world is, we may never innovate as much as we can and won’t use all the opportunities for design a web page really offers. And then there is the fact that if skeuomorphs are not done properly, they can go horribly wrong and can make the entire program to throw errors. Think of an analog clock, which may ring at the wrong time if it cannot understand the difference between AM and PM.

But because we are talking about enhancement, design and utility must go together. Skeuomorphs have been used without discretion for practically everything these days online, but the reason they were created were to ensure that human beings did not feel a sense of alienation while interacting over machines. Skeuomorphs were meant to be a comforting familiar environment that made online communication a joy. Now that nearly all communication has moved online, using skeuomorphs is second nature. Visual anchors are important on a webpage, but a good thumb of rule is to balance your webpage by using skeuomorphs only when you need to and not because you have to. Keep it simple, and you will keep it real.

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