Article: The (Semi)Skeuomorphism

April 1, 2012

On the other hand, a number of applications are trying to dismantle the paradigm of âskeuomorphism mixed with buttonsâ by leveraging the inner strength of the iOS platform, and in particular the iPad: the deviceâs screen. Impendingâs Clear, for instance, famously avoided buttons and toolbars to focus its interaction exclusively on gestures. Paper, for as much as its name implies a real-life feeling of actual paper, is the least real-life-looking (and behaving) sketching app of all: sure itâs got paper and a tool palette, but there are no buttons and navigation elements when you are drawing. In Paper, you pinch to go back one level (like Clear); you rotate two fingers on screen to undo and redo your actions. I assume the developers had to use standard sharing and â+â buttons only because they couldnât come up with a significant breakthrough in associating these commands with equally intuitive gestures.

Which brings me to the downside of simplicity: discovery. Pinch to close and rotate to undo make for a pretty demo and elegant implementations for the iOS nerds like us, but are they discoverable enough by ânormal peopleâ? Would my dad know he can pinch open pages and rotate an undo dial? Are these gestures obvious enough to avoid confusion and another form of frustration? Intuitive software shouldnât need a manual.

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