1 August 2012
When setting up a professional portal, data inventory or external website we deal quite a lot with User Experience. User Experience has a significance effect on reuse of said portal/inventory/website, along the fact that the important data and professional information required for daily ongoing working is stored there. If so, before setting up and building a website, we must consider the users' needs, nature of use, type of entered content. But beyond its professional contribution, we also want users to enter the website regularly. This is where thought must be invested.
What does User Experience include? How is optimal UX attained? The thought about this issue led me to a new concept: Skeuomorphism. According to Wikipedia: "Skeuomorphism - an element of design or structure that serves little or no purpose in the artifact fashioned from the new material but was essential to the object made from the original material".
How does this manifest in the world of internet and UX?
"Real" elements correctly placed in a website can provide users with a "real world" feeling, utilizing this ambience to direct them towards the website's goals and intentions. For example, inserting a calendar into a "real" calendar background can create a familiar sense of a "calendar". A website that sells books can display its books on a background of wooden shelves thus providing a sense of a "real" bookstore.
Is this good? Is it not a bit redundant?
On one hand, using "real" interfaces can provide a familiar feeling and a more pleasant atmosphere when navigating throughout the website, simplifying it for those that struggle with advanced technology. This way, communicating with users is both quicker and simpler. On the other hand, if implemented incorrectly/imprecisely or when the selected interfaces are not familiar to most users, they can be bothersome and generate confusion among users regarding the website's goals. Furthermore, using elements "from the past" are a bad choice when dealing with younger users unfamiliar with these elements. In cases such as these, a reverse effect might be attained.
In my opinion, skeuomorphism can generate positive experiences not only for internet websites but also for websites that contain mainly professional data (especially in a work environment) and make workers return and use the website due to the pleasant experience. For example, using a "shop" interface for a sales hotline or a "retreat" interface for a traveling agency's sales website can generate a different ambiance and benefit the website's goals.
However, when setting up & constructing a website and defining goals one must heavily consider how many "real" interfaces can fit, in what size and make sure that they serve as a background and do not mistakenly take center stage; skeuomorphism must be used only when it contributes to the User Experience.