AR and the (Possible) Return of Skeuomorphism
Skeuomorphic graphical user interface emulates the aesthetics of physical objects (wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeuomorph).
Skeuomorphism was widely popular in UI design for computers, mobile phones and then smart watches for a long time. Probably the most famous example is Apple UI under Steve Jobs leadership. The purpose of skeuomorphism was to make interfaces “affordable” and easily understandable by users who didn’t have prior experience of interacting with new devices.
Affordances refer to action possibilities of objects or other features of the environment. The most commonly cited examples of affordances include door handles and push buttons; their physical designs inform users that they can be rotated or pushed. Skeuomorphism represents affordances in digital user interfaces. It fits with our natural interpretation of objects—but in a digital world - What is Skeuomorphism? | IxDF
Here is an Audio Recorder app screenshot from iOS6 as a very prominent example:
Over time, it became clear that people got used to the virtual interfaces and there was no more need in direct representation of physical things on our screens, so the design became flat and minimalistic.
Of course, skeuomorphic elements are still used now, but in most cases these elements are not as “direct” as they were previously. Such approach allows using the limited screen space more efficiently and have consistent and slick UI.
Knowing that almost every person on Earth has experience of using mobile phones, I thought that skeuomorphism will be used only as a nice touching and aesthetic improvement of UI designs, and we will never see its return as it was. But yesterday saw a post on Threads by @yasirbugra:
It came to my mind that this is the real possibility of seeing skeuomorphism back, maybe even in a more functional form than we had on flat screens! If AR/XR devices like Quest, Vision Pro and their successors become popular among wide audience, it might be easier and more convenient for people to start using them with UI that closely resembles real objects, and not flat screens hanging around. This is not the case for any usage obviously, but I can imagine that “leaving” virtual “things” (like a notebook or a book) on a table or a bookshelf can be a nice step of making AR blend with our daily life seamlessly. And unlike for the case with 2d screens, we can now interact with virtual object in different ways by moving them around, rotating etc.
I can also imagine that some blockchain maxis will probably try to get back their unique NFT-like objects to our lives, but that’s another topic:).
Anyway, I am sure that the new devices will bring new interesting experiences and make our lives more fun, with or without skeuomorphism. But I personally would prefer to see some nice warm skeuomorphic UIs again.