Skeuomorphism in Web Design: Main Pros & Cons

Web design, just like literature or music, follows the spiral model in its development. With the only exception. The web design changes take place much quicker, comparing to other creative fields. What is considered old can become the in-thing within a year or two, and vice versa. Today we would like to have a closer look at skeuomorphism in web design. This phenomenon has had its ups and downs in web design for the last couple of years. Our goal will be to clear up what skeuomorphism is (not). Having done that, we will examine the main pros and cons of this phenomenon for the modern web design.

What Skeuomorphism Is


The main principle of the skeuomorphic in web design is to preserve realistic visuality of a digital concept. Sounds pretty easy to understand, doesn’t it? There is a tricky part, however, and it is to create a skeuomorphic design that is both practical and appealing to your audience.

What Skeuomorphism Is Not

It is important not to call skeuomorphism a tendency, a trend, or an effect. In fact, it is more logical to call it a philosophy in web design. We can love it or hate it, but skeuomorphism has long been a part of web aesthetics and will continue to be one.

One also needs to stop viewing skeuomorphism as strong opposition to Flat Design. And for sure, it is not an antonym for Material Design. The constantly growing number of web designers opt for moderation in all things. They prove that the best web design results from the smooth combination of design techniques.

Now that we have figured out the basic principles of skeuomorphism, let’s analyze main pros and cons of this phenomenon.

Pros of Skeuomorphism in Web Design


To begin with, skeuomorphism in web design means that your users know what to expect. Even when visiting a skeuomorphic website for the first time, users can intuitively answer all the basic questions, like “What is the product this website offers?”, “What button should one click to reach the website owner?” etc. An example of how clients’ expectations can be met with skeuomorphic design is this Ready-Made Website for Industrial Companies. On the one hand, gears definitely play the fiddle in the design of this website. When looking at them, you can actually hear some grinding and think of a big technical mechanism. On the other hand, this appeal to sight, hearing, and familiarity does not distract your visitors from the product presentation.

Secondly, a solid skeuomorphic design can appeal to many human senses at the same time. This helps to maintainthe sensory marketing. In other words, with skeuomorphism you can persuade your customers that you sell certain sensations, not just a product. For example, in this skeuomorphic Responsive Restaurant Website Template web designers used an image of mussels and toasts. This image makes your visitors remember the taste of a well-spiced dish and the smell of warm crisp bread.

What also attracts people in skeuomorphic web design is its clear message. Usually this message is built on the user’s personal experience. For example, if you look at the Prebuilt Website for Online Business, you see objects that almost any business person will have on their tables. This straightforward background image accompanies a well-structured menu in black and blue. Everything looks familiar and approachable, doesn’t it?

Rendering a clear message makes your website more attractive for (a bit) older generation. Does your audience consist of people in their late 40-s and 50-s? Then it makes sense to get as realistic as possible with your web design. For example, this Website Theme for Web Design Agency immediately evokes the train of thought “computer – the Internet – web development – web design”. And for sure, it leaves no room for doubts about the service this website offers.

Cons of Skeuomorphism


Despite the pros, a web designer should understand the overuse of skeuomorphism. Probably, this is the biggest pitfall of skeuomorphism. The overuse of skeuomorphism can take many shapes, e.g. the misleading visuality, the wrong senses evocation, and over-realism. Let’s try to exemplify the cons mentioned above.

For starters, people believe that skeuomorphism is supposed to be 100% understandable. Some of the websites that use skeuomorphic elements, however, look misleading. For example, when visiting the The Secret Door website for the first time one does not expect to see a funny clickable hand, let alone to hear the funny music. And it can actually take a few seconds before a visitor realizes what the secret door is for.

Another big problem of skeuomorphism is that it can evoke sensations you did not expect. For example, Bagigia uses an image of a hot water bottle that is actually a modern bag. It is true that the bag looks modern and super realistic. But there is one tiny detail – for many people a hot water bottle may be a painful reminder of being cold, or sick.

One more problem with skeuomorphism is over-realism. Usually it means too many realistic details that clutter the screen. For instance, one may get easily distracted from the website content when visiting the G’nosh website because of its (too) rich realistic visuality.

To sum up, we should say that skeuomorphism is a deep-seated website philosophy. For now, this philosophy remains popular despite all the controversial discussions it provokes.