Thoughts on Skeuomorphic Menu Systems (medium.com)
almost 6 years ago from Charlie Deets, Product Designer at WhatsApp
almost 6 years ago from Charlie Deets, Product Designer at WhatsApp
I'm not sure I'd call these skeuomorphic menus. Their relation to physicality has little or nothing to do with the design of the menus, only the initial interaction to initiate access to the menus to interfaces themselves.
I'm suggesting that the skeuomorphic element in the menu of options is the specific locations in a physical space. Relating real life physical choices, to visiting options in a menu. I couldn't find another name for this type of menu design, and this felt the most closely related. What would you call these type of menus?
immersive seems more apt than skeuomorphic.
Yes I agree 'immersive' works well for the 3D examples, but it feels less defined and doesn't work for the 2D examples. To me, the interesting element of these menus are their relationship to real life actions. You visit the options of a menu to do things, you visit the places of a town to do things. That paradigm seems to encompass all the examples, even though it's not what we classically think of as skeuomorphic design.
It's really not so much skeuomorphic menu design as spatially oriented menu design.
I think that is a strong way to describe the 3D menus. I still feel the thing that ties all the examples together, both 2D and 3D is the skeuomorphic elements. Mainly because the sense of space on a 2D plane isn't as obvious as the representation of movement between 'physical' locations. I agree 'skeuomorphic' doesn't explain the paradigm in full, but for me, it tied the article together.
skeuomorphism recreates real world experiences through textures and metaphors. For instance, an audio editing app with multi-channel mixers is skeuomorphic. An audio engineer will feel very familiar with the relatively faithful recreation of sound editing boards found ire wording studios. Each channel has a fader control and various knobs and switches much like its real world counter part. While recreating the metal and lights isn't necessary (see Ableton's apps for an example of minimalistic skeuomorphs), it has been done and helps grind the UI in a way this is even more familiar.
These UIs do nothing of the sort. For the inventory examples you'd need to create a backpack, for instance, and allow users to rummage through it much like they would in the real world. While possible, it would add a layer of minutia that slows down the pace of the game and might place far too realistic limits on what the character can carry with them.
Some games get close to this point. Ghost ReconL: Wildlands displays the user in third person, showing them with a backpack and the two larger weapons they have at their disposal as well as the drone uses for reconaissance throughout the missions. While you don't have to point at the gun to select it, a key on PCs or a button on controllers skips the minutia here, you can see which gun you have chosen simply by remembering which side each weapon resides on the pack. More detailed menu management, such as weapon or character customization are done through the standard menu panels and tabbed interfaces.
I agree with that definition of skeuomorphic design. The way I am using the term here may seem a bit abstract, but a town offers you a series of non-linear options of things you can choose to do. A menu is a series of non-linear options of things you can choose to do. It's not as closely related as a calculator UI to a real life calculator, but I think you would agree 'walking your character to the lobby to join friends in a game' is more skeuomorphic than 'selecting a lobby and friends from a menu list.'
Every interface maps mechanics to objects or agents. That's why what you're describing is agent-based social/environmental interactions. Yes, it's skeuomorphic, but that doesn't tell you much here.
Perhaps diegetic UI could be more suitable?
With respect to video-games, this typically refers to interface elements that exist in the game world such as the holographic map in The Division or the health meter in Dead Space.
Killer article Charlie, I really enjoyed reading it.
I’m tempted to get a Nintendo Switch now, but the PS4 is already ruining my life. lol
I can appreciate where you’re going with the idea of “skeuomorphic” menu systems - meaning - the iconography contained within those menu systems, and the discovery aspect of “sub-menu” systems that are contained within various contexts of game play.
I haven’t had a console or played console games in ages. Recently, I picked up a PS4 - particularly so I could see what was going on in the world of games, and their interfaces.
I have been addicted to the game - Horizon: Zero Dawn (finished it last week, one of the best games I've ever played) - and I too, have been mesmerized by menu and controls systems in games. In particular with this game - every single input on the controller is used. Even the “R3 and L3” tap of the respective joysticks. What has amazed me is the fluidity of the use of all these controls throughout gameplay.
As with many games, in HZD there is a “Focus” - which allows the main character you’re playing, Aloy - to scan ahead and identify potential threats in the environment. The focus (contextually) is needed to receive certain messages that are coded/ signaling in the environment.
The menu systems and environmental interactions heavily rely on skeuomorphism as well.
Clearly, as humans - we’re becoming more and more adept and learning much more complex human computer interactions - and gaming is certainly on the frontier of that movement.
With regards to skeuomorphism in this case - one thing I wonder aloud, I’m older so I get the references to some metaphors. With others who are younger, I wonder if they even get what the references mean?
Thus, perhaps some skeuomorphic iconography may not be as effective as we think with some audiences. Then again, it may not matter. Seems like a lot of games these days totally forego any user onboarding at all and people who get into the games just figure it out.
Hey Jon, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
You totally need a Switch and if you liked HZD get ready to have your mind blown by Breath of the Wild.
Games do have a tricky position of making things easy enough on the player to understand and progress, but hard enough so they are challenging and fun to figure out. When working on interfaces that are for communication, commerce or productivity things always needs to be as easy as possible. Something that interests me is where game designers introduce friction in order to make the experience more engaging.
I know what you are saying about games and tutorials. Breath of the Wild is an interesting game because it seems like there is no obvious tutorial, but actually the entire game is a long tutorial that teaches the player a library of actions that they end up having to use in new and interesting ways.
Excellent thinking as well. Thank you.
Yeah, I generally agree with you regarding the various types of interfaces outside of gaming.
Particularly in B2B applications where mistakes cost money.
I'm surprised more B2B saas platforms don't borrow more heavily from gaming.
Often, the stakeholders who purchase the software are not the users. The work handled in the saas is handed over to someone else.
In most cases, these platforms are competing for the workers attention with say, Facebook.
Without getting too cheesy, there are some B2B saas scenarios where the work tasks could be "Missions", assigned weighted values to organize priority and award value for completion.
There are ways to make a lot of otherwise boring saas software more seductive than Facebook.
Jesse Schell's book "The Art of Game Design" would benefit saas founders greatly on these points.
One pattern I'm seeing more and more of in mobile applications, particularly in B2C - is a lot of hidden feature discovery as popularized by SnapChat.
The mobile game Monument 2 does the atmospheric, ambient trial and error approach.
Love that one.
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