Skeumorphic is now a dirty word. Flat design is in. But skeumorphism it still has its uses.
Lets take a look at the new Twitterific iPhone app. It has a ‘modern’ flat look. But look at the action tray:
I have a problem clicking the buttons because I don’t know what the clickable area is. There’s no way to tell want my margin of error is. It makes me think for a split second more. It doesn’t matter whether the clickable area is actually bigger or smaller. The fact that I perceive it to be smaller is bad enough because it forces me to think. That’s bad enough.
On Tweetbot, the clickable area is pretty obvious:
You know which part of the UI can be pressed (affordance). You know how exactly how it will react. Making things more obvious, even if it’s a split second difference in reaction time, makes a big difference.
Flat design is an ok trend. I actually like it. But anything taken to the extreme can be bad. On one hand, overloading an interface with needless details such as torn paper in a calendar can distract and restrict, but we should not swing to the other extreme either.
Stripping away ALL skeumorphism can be just as bad as faux leather. Switches and buttons translate well into GUIs because they accurately communicated affordances.