Apple’s skeuomorphism reconsidered

I was just looking at the much maligned skeuomorphic interface on iCal in Lion, and trying to decide why it doesn’t really bother me that much. I think I figured it out.

It’s inconsistent with other windows, but the objects on a real desk don’t all look alike. I’ve observed novice computer users, even today, struggle to differentiate windows on a standard computer desktop. They can’t tell which window is active; they can’t tell windows apart; they don’t know the difference between different applications or whether a given app is still running without any windows open or not.

In short: a lot of people still don’t understand the GUI, and never will. And, kind of like I wrote yesterday about Kevin and Robert California, whose fault is that? The user’s, or the interface designer’s?

iCal may look out of place, but there’s no mistaking it in the jumble of overlapping windows, just like there’s no mistaking a particular physical book in a big pile on a cluttered desk.

The arguments for or against skeuomorphism are completely different on iOS, of course, where there’s only ever one app on the screen at a time. But I think the HIG zealots and Magritte maybe need to get over themselves a bit, even if iCal makes all of us want to tear those little bits of paper off.

The Undisciplined Room, Episode 2: How Did We Get Here?


The Undisciplined Room, Episode 2: How Did We Get Here?
If my 2500 words of blog writing weren’t enough for you today, SLP and I also recorded another 92-minute episode of our podcast, The Undisciplined Room.

This time around we discussed our personal backstories, SOPA, the role of comments on blogs, feeling overwhelmed when everything in the world is cutting edge, social media as introvert heaven, and current exhibits at the Walker Art Center. We also introduce what is sure to become a recurring segment, possibly with its own theme song: We Hate Twitterâ„¢.

Check it out at our Undisciplined Room website. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes!