What is Skeuomorphism?

Skeuomorphism is all about taking inspiration from the real-world and applying the qualities of physical objects in human-computer interaction is referred to as skeuomorphism.

Skeuomorphism is adopted in design to support the user’s transition from the physical world to the virtual world. By adopting the superficial qualities of physical objects and modes of interaction in the design of graphical objects, the user should, in theory, be able to determine what they can do and how they can do it immediately. Therefore, observing and appreciating real affordances can help designers establish obvious perceived affordances. Obvious perceived affordances that have taken inspiration from objects in the physical world, allow the user to switch from one world to the other with minimal effort and without the awkward initial phase associated with learning new representations and methods of interaction.

However, skeuomorphism is only effective when the design feature(s) both looks and behaves like the physical object/element upon which the graphical antecedent has been based. If a graphical element looks like a physical artefact the user will assume it will also behave in the same way. The user will, therefore, attempt to interact according to their expectations, which would lead to confusion and, worst of all, errors if there is a disconnection between the look and behaviour of the element. For this reason, basing affordances in HCI on affordances in the real-world is best suited to occasions where the designer is able to provide visual and interactive qualities that ensure a smooth passage from the real to the virtual world.