Session Details

Skeuomorphs and Simulacra: The Allure of the Familiar and the Prison of the Past

#UAD9 Usability, Accessibility and Design Track

Room 106A


In this session, we will explore the concept of the skeuomorph in design and how using representations of familiar objects and materials as affordances in web interfaces can speed the user's grasp of an application's key concepts and features. We’ll look at some fun and illustrative examples and ask if holding too tightly to these kinds of visual metaphors hinders innovation and the development of new paradigms. Pushing beyond buttons and their icons, we’ll talk about the phenomenon where stakeholders visualize their websites through the lens of the physical spaces and administrative procedures they inhabit as they pressure us to design websites that are literal simulations of the way-finding and transactional details of their physical world. A popular and common example of this is a website whose information architecture and navigation mirror a university's organizational structure and floor plan while ignoring user context and principles of task completion. DeMello will talk about how to spot this kind of thinking, its intellectual and emotional causes, and list some strategies for breaking through these patterns.



David DeMello
Director of Web Strategy, Cornell University ILR School

David DeMello has worked on the web in Higher Education for 15 years. He has worn many hats and has worked as a programmer, database and systems administrator, web master, designer, user researcher, information architect, writer, strategic director, evangelist, educator and fixer. By day, almost all of that work has been for the ILR School at Cornell University.

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