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Skins for user interface, Good or Bad?

User interface, what should it be to be attractive for everyone? Classic or thematic?

Should your software offer interface designed for each and every client's needs?

Well, definitely, the skins are what customers of media and entertaining applications love very much.

On the other hand, there is a bunch of programs where skins are not just unnecessary but harmful.

Can you imagine the system or administrative utility painted with all the colors of the rainbow? I can not.

In this case the only affordable thing is to change the color theme. Something closer to grayish hues is my thought of such software.

But where and when the skins are demanded?

Music and video players, voice and instant messengers have number of nice and cute skins supplied with installation packages.

This is my classification of skinned applications:

- Software not eligible for skins support
- Software with non-extendable skin set
- Software with detailed "Skin Development Kit"

Well, first category was explained above and it's not really interesting in a scope of this article.

Programs under second clause often have own skin format and do not give it to the public.

The last category is the software I personally enjoy a lot. Customers love to make the things themselves, therefore a step-by-step tutorial of how to create the skin for your application is an attractive marketing hint.

Two ways for your application:

"Make your simple skin in 5 minutes".

Take a look back at old Winamp skins, where it was enough to use MSPaint for skins design. This is why WinAmp is the leading skinned application.

"Study our format's specifications and enjoy the great result of your efforts".

Have you ever tried to create a skin for Windows Media Player, I more than sure you have not. User interface design here is more about programming neither about graphics design.

Pros and Cons.

Now you are introduced to the general types of skinned applications and you can decide whether you go with skins or you do not need them at all.


Skins consist of the graphics, often include animated graphics. This will increase your system resources requirements and probably slow down the performance, but...


Most customers like to see their products customizable, change the themes according their mood, season or favorite color. Offer a skins feature you stand higher your competitors.

Skins are the fashion of software and this is your choice whether to be in or not.

What do you gyus think about this?
Paul Greatskin Send private email
Monday, October 22, 2007
I, personally, am very utilitarian. If at all possible I opt for a "classic" view, because I don't like candy interfaces. I probably hold the minority view.

"What do you gyus think about this?"

I think this is nothing more than a sales pitch for your software.
AverageMidget Send private email
Monday, October 22, 2007
Skins are stupid. They are devised by people who don't understand that user interfaces are about function and behavior, not just appearances.
Jeffrey Dutky Send private email
Monday, October 22, 2007
I am a big fan of the default behaviour and appearance of applications but there are many examples of beautifully skinned applications. I say that any application that depends on style to sell probably deserves a skinnable UI. Tools and business applications are probably better left with the standard look and feel.
JSD Send private email
Monday, October 22, 2007
Skins are plain confusing for most apps. Stick to the standards, that's what they are for. And one has to assume that Paul Greatskin is spamming us.
Neville Franks Send private email
Monday, October 22, 2007
The one example of a skin that I have found useful is with a PocketPC manager called Pocket Controller Professional by .  They have created skin files for many of the PocketPC devices on the market and we use this product when we demonstrate our handhelds, because it lets us show exactly what different handhelds look like from a distance.

Other than that I tend to agree that skins are not very useful.
Karl Perry Send private email
Monday, October 22, 2007
Usefulness of skins purely depend on your users. There are kids out there spending hours customizing their myspace page.
Urumi Send private email
Monday, October 22, 2007
Skins add nothing to the user experience - they only waste time and make things more complicated. This is an illusion of customization, where all you really get is a time-wasting toy.

Most users will not want to learn your kinky unfamiliar gimmicks. They want usability. Invest into designing a good, clear, comfortable interface that will blend with the OS's interface seamlessly.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Hey everyone!

Thanks for your answers. I do not spam here but just want to know your opinion on skins.
Weren't skins ever useful to anyone?
Did you get any positive impressions anytime with skinned application?
Most answers do lean to standard OS appearance, but however skins do exist and and similar wibsites get very high traffic everyday. Don't you think that opinoin of endusers who isn't that deep in IT could be different?
Paul Greatskin Send private email
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
*Cough* How do figure that?
Mikael Bergkvist Send private email
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Skins suck.  They take away all the benefits of a standard UI and leave you trying to guess where to find even the most basic functions.

I love skins in media applications -- but only because someone, somewhere has generally created a "standard interface" skin that I can use to get rid of the ridiculous default appearance that tries to make the application look like a real DVD player or whatever.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Dear Mr. Greatskin,

Your site is all about skins so please stop spamming us!
Sunday, November 11, 2007

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