A lot has been said and written about flat designs over skeuomorphic designs and vice versa. It is no doubt that both are unique design languages in their own sense and influence user experience in more ways than one. Flat design is honest and down-to-earth whereas skeuomorphism is fun but lacks functionality. It’s a tricky situation for designers, users and clients alike.
Let’s take a look at the ongoing debate between flat vs skeuomorphic designs:
What is Flat Design?
Flat design also referred to as honest design, is strongly built on the fundamentals of user based design. A flat design is simple, workable on almost any device irrespective of size and resolution. Flat design has no gradients, bevels as screens are two dimensional. Being less complicated flat designs scores more on web usability and cross-functionality. One example that comes to my mind is Squaresquare which uses a flat interface. It’s easy to navigate and looks very simple.
What is Skeuomorphism?
Skeuomorphism is a charming web design aesthetic. The term is derived from skeuomorph an object which imitates the design of a similar artifact in another material. The best application of skeuomorphism seems to be when the interface matches the UX. For instance, a notebook app which resembles a contact book with pages. Only the look of the object is adopted in skeuomorphic design and not its functionality. In other words, although you can view the notebook app with pages but you can’t really turn those pages or perform any other function as with your real notebook.
Apple’s iCalendar app on iPad is the best design on skeuomorphism. The iCal has a leather stitch or Siri’s linen background. Another example is Apple’s Notes app with a little more rip and less leather. Needless to say it appears outdated. Apple has been an ever-evolving brand but their concepts looks inspired from Android and Windows 8. Skeuomorphism does not seem to be benefitting Apple in any way. Rather Apple’s designers could be battling their own confusions about skeuomorphism whether to use it or not. For instance iPhoto does not look like old- styled photo album. As for now, we will just have to wait and watch what Apple offers in its next versions of iOS and iOSX apps.
Skeuomorphism Designs Versus Flat Designs
As designers we face an almost lethal battle whether to choose flat over skeuomorphism. Let’s take a look at the important things that must be kept in mind before choosing one over the other:
The main reason why the designers chose skeumorphism over flat design is ease and comfort of use. We must stay real with the content, medium, and limits. Web sites which depict little hands and push buttons resembling close to the original object helps users to easily identify the course of action. For instance the calendar app that appears like an old calendar gives a sense of acquaintance to its users. Just like the Flip Board UI where we don’t really have to use our minds to interpret its use. It appears like a magazine which is easy to browse. Without a skeuomorphic design, Flip board might lose its purpose altogether. It will become cumbersome and boring to use. A good website must use familiar ideas to communicate its message to its users. Hence to use skeuomorphism or not depends highly on the requirement of the designers.
As designers we must always bear in mind the end-user while designing a website. We must focus on custom web design and development that can talk and listen to its users and build to resolve a problem. We need to take into consideration the adaptability of the design on multiple platforms. User behavior influences a lot of design aesthetics in a broad sense, flat or skeuomorphic design. The answer totally lies in ‘for whom’ the website is being designed. It is essential that as designers we completely and consistently study our user behavior and preferences in order to build user-friendly custom web sites.
One of the important factors that lead us to choose either of the designs is budget especially for small business website design services. The client has to believe in the project and provide adequate funds to power its growth and development. We cannot push clients to follow us or simply follow design fads. Skeuomorphic designs are tough to create with the use of so many embellishments that simply add the cost of consuming extra bandwidths. Technically, flat designs are less expensive and more functional than skeuomorphs. Additionally flat designs can be executed in shorter span of time. For instance, a high trafficked site like Facebook is opting for flat designs. As designers, we can reason out with our client to create a win-win situation for clients, users and us.
To sum it up
Looking at debate from all different viewpoints the best verdict will be to use both designs in moderation and in accordance with each other. As designers we can take care of the usability of a website which must not be compromised in any sense. After all, a well-crafted website must leave the audience wanting more. Flat or skeuomorphic, the design that is able to convey the message must be the need of the hour. As designers the onus lies on us on how to balance our design aesthetics and yield better results.
Author Bio: Sebastian Atwell works for PerceptiveWebDesign, a leading custom web design and development company providing small business website design services. He likes spending time with his family in his spare time. He loves to follow news on current affairs.