The latest mobile application-development design trend favors a “flat” UI. Developers are being told that skeuomorphism is out and flat is in.
The Merriam-Webster definition of skeuomorph is an ornament or design representing a utensil or implement. In other words, it’s a digital object made to resemble a real-life object. They’re used to make the new digital versions look like the old, familiar ones. Mobile applications have always used skeuomorphs to try to make the digital experience more closely resemble that of real life.
In Windows Phone 8, Microsoft moved away from skeuomorphism in an attempt to make mobile apps appear “authentically digital.” And in their upcoming iOS 7 release this fall, Apple is shifting their UI design from skeuomorphic to a flat design.
Following the lead of companies such as Microsoft and Apple, more and more mobile app development tool providers are also moving away from skeuomorphism in favor of flat. Some tool providers say it will improve app performance and save on battery life, the rationale being that flat mobile apps will take less time to perform actions and load in all the necessary visual effects.
One of the most popular arguments in favor of skeuomorphic design, though, is that it makes it easier for users familiar with the original device—a rotary phone, or a Rolodex—to use the digital emulation of it. Since their earliest days, mobile apps have been created to look as “real” as possible, incorporating elements that closely resembled real-life objects. Heck, that’s why mobile applications were cool in the first place.
We think this is where mobile applications got their fanbases and why users will just not like the new flat UIs. No matter how old or young you are, as a user, you want a great user experience when using your cellphone or tablet. We think skeuomorphism is not outdated; it’s still an important UI design trend. In mobile, after all, the user experience is key. A mobile application’s UI has a direct effect on user experience.
You can’t go backwards in design, removing all the pleasing visual aesthetics in mobile apps to which users are accustomed. Flat will not be visually appealing. Flat will look boring in mobile apps. Flat is a step back. The current “flat” craze will, ultimately, fall flat.
WebRTC: Still about the codec
In speaking with the World Wide Web Consortium about HTML5 and WebRTC, the issue of the video codec keeps coming up. Should the group accept VP8, the Google-backed codec, or H.264, which Microsoft, Apple and many others already have implemented, but comes with a licensing fee?
As of today, WebRTC specifies only one codec: VP8. A big part of that reason, WebRTC specification editor Dan Burnett told SD Times in this issue’s cover story, is ubiquity. Only that which can be implemented inexpensively will become nearly universally used.