A skeuomorph is a derivative object which retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original. For instance, the tiny handles on glass maple syrup containers are vestiges of functional handles, but are left there for decorative purposes.
When done well, a skeuomorph helps a user to feel comfortable with an interface. Slight textures in digital interfaces help them to feel tactile. Good skeuomorph take cues from an analog world to help a user navigate a digital one. when done poorly, the skeuomorph forces the user to deal with an interface in an outdated way by blatantly ignoring the fact that the interaction is being done on a platform that is capable of handling new and improved interactions.
Examples of digital skeuomorphs include the voice message icon on Nokia mobiles is an old-school tape. , analog telephone ringtones, particularly when it sounds like an old rotary phone. and shopping cart icons.  Examples of analog skeuomorphs include the ventiports on decades of Buicks and scores of Asian-import tuner cars.  and the tiny handles on small maple syrup jugs.
When creating software, one should be careful to use skeuomorphs reasonably. Many designers create poor interfaces on new hardware devices by trying too much to bring analog interfaces to life. Instead, the capabilities of the new device should be showcased through the interface by hinting at an old experience brought to life in a much smoother way. An example of this is forcing a user to drag a digital page in order to turn to the next page instead of simply tapping on the right or left side of the text to move back and forth through content.
- The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 1971. Volume II, Pg. 4064.
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