Skeuminimalism vs the Flat iOS7 Look, Some Impressions

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IOS 7 LogoI just downloaded iOS7 today and after my initial shock from the vastly changed appearance wore off, it's starting to grow on me. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of talk about how the new UI is some sort of ridiculous expression of design extremism and snobbery. I certainly was thinking this when I booted into iOS7 for the first time. 

"What the hell! This is worse than Windows 8!" 

Eventually I began to realize that part of my response was simply a visceral reaction at seeing something I'm used to changed so radically. If I didn't design and develop Websites and interfaces, I could allow myself to hate something purely on emotional grounds. Since UI is a part of what I do sometimes, I had to try to understand why they felt it necessary to go to this extreme.

If you gave me a choice between the skeumorphism (the old look), flat (iOS7), and skeuminimalism (a hybrid of the two), I'd have gone with skeuminimalism. I just find it a bit offputting that it's hard to identify what aspects of the UI are a button or a scrolling interface and what is just part of the background. 

Even as I say this, I can understand why they went with a flat look and I've come to think that it's the smartest decision they could make given the circumstances. On some of ther screens, there are so many things that are buttons that if you gave each of them texture to call out that they were buttons, it'd be very hard not to cross the line from skeuminimalism into badly planned skeumorphism. UI elements creep into everything. Once you introduce something that alters the perception of another element, you've set in motion a chain reaction of design considerations that gets harder and harder to resolve over time.

The problem gets even more pronouced if we factor in all the third party applications available in the iTunes Store. It's hard enough to keep skeumorphic tendencies in check when you have full control of the interface, but in areas where you share it with something else it's very easy for just one little excess of texture to throw the whole design composition into chaos. 

When I'm working with my clients on their sites, they'll sometimes say "I think we need a box around this" or "Let's separate that with lines."

Usually I try to discourage them from taking this approach because once you start using physical lines to define layout borders instead of just being wiser with spacing, you may have taken the first step on the road to a place called Boxy Website Hell. In this burning wasteland, you have to draw a box around anything to get it noticed because there are so many borders around other things that not putting a border around something makes it hard to notice.

I've banished my share of websites to Boxy Website Hell so I know quite well that once you box, it's hard to stop.


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