"Literally making something look simple makes it simpler to use."
Yeah this really threw me for a loop. I think that meticulous wireframes, user testing and lots of preliminary feedback make something simpler to use. Not just stripping away the style for the sake of doing so. If the bones of your product are broken, it's not going to make it any better by "making something look simple".
That was my exact point! Thanks for reading.
I'd agree with most of the points raised there. However, whilst flat design can be very effective when done right, the piece seems to focus on the two extremes; entirely flat design and over the top skeumorphism, without considering the spectrum between. Personally, I think flat design can benefit from minor embellishment in places to help highlight aspects to users.
I think the article is trying to induce a fist-fight by painting this as a black and white issue. It feels too aggressive and largely uninformed. The tweet that she was responding to simply said that a flat design aesthetic doesn't make something more usable. How she took issue with that, I have no idea.
She takes that as an excuse to assume that the tweet author was saying, "Skeuomorphism makes an interface more usable." When very clearly, he/she wasn't. So her entire article starts attacking against an invisible statement.
Finally, I would love it if she actually had any research to back up her claim that a flat interface is innately more usable. She's seemingly saying that drop shadows have no use. I couldn't disagree more.
Hey! Thanks for reading and thanks for the thoughtful critique.
Just to be clear, I wasn't trying to start a fistfight. I didn't suspect many people would even read the post. My post was mostly trying to refute the idea that Flat UI would make something LESS usable, not necessarily that it WILL make it more usable. The reason I included that tweet was just because that's what spurred my thoughts on it. (And I admit, I should have included the entire twitter conversation, because it was in a reply that the original tweeter actually says he thought Flat made things less usable.)
My basic point was that skeumorphic, flat, or something in between, if you don't do the work ahead of time to make sure your UX makes sense, your product isn't going to be usable. I wasn't trying to prescribe one over the other. However, upon re-reading, I see how that might not have come through.
Hey Missy – how did you get on Medium? I'm pretty jelly.
I'm seeing what Chris is saying, though. The focus on extremes eclipsed the more fundamental point that UX thinking must come first. I appreciated that point, because it's true.
But I've been thinking about blogging about the middle path of flat vs. skeuo. I legitimately believe combining the best of both will yeild the most usable experience. Can you see how some dimensionality would help build visual metaphors for an interface? Those metaphors help users know things like "Oh, this lives off screen" or "Oh, this is probably press-able." That said, too much is crass and, in some philosophical design circles, disingenuous.
Thanks for the response, Missy. I'm all for people coming out and making statements as you did. I think the clarification that a set of aesthetic choices, flat or not, doesn't make something more or less usable is often (not always) true.
A great example of this is rounded corners. You could argue rounded corners are skeuomorphic, because they are based on the metaphor of our real life rounded buttons. And rounded boxes test more like buttons in usability tests than square ones do. DN's own comment button is a great example of this!
There is no spectrum between "flat" and "skeumorphic"! They are entirely different concepts that have barely anything to do with each other.
This is a perfect example of a flat design that makes heavy use of skeumorphism: http://dribbble.com/shots/1054784-iOS7-Concept-Reminders
"Skeumorphism" isn't even a design word. You know what else is a skeuomorph? The shutter sound when you take an image in your camera app.
The aforelinked reminders mockup? Skeuomorphic. Apple's Find My Friends app, with its faux-leather interface? Not skeuomorphic.
Sorry to go off here, this is just something that frustrates me every time it comes up.
If you start with a shoddy foundation (UX) your UI is bound to suffer—regardless of what style is implemented.
Are we still beating this dead horse? Didn't we say last month that Flat UI vs Skeumorphism posts were going to get knocked down? I am a little upset that this is at the top of DN.
Also, I feel there is far too much animosity clearly present in this writing toward one view point for me to take it as a professional argument. "Doesn't glimmer like the harvest moon"? What does that even mean?
All around a decent article. I think that too few people do experiment with the combination of skeu and flat. Also, there is a tendency to stick to one style of flat —all buttons look a specific way, etc.
My favourite part though:
"Your users will not sit, staring at their screen, befuddled because your buttons are don’t have the glassy exterior of a marble."
The mind boggles when I think of the poor clients being delivered a design style, as opposed to a design solution. Sheep follow trends.