Mike Rundle has some great advice on UI design:
The underlying secret to beautiful user interface design is realism: making 2D objects on your screen appear to sit in 3D space with volume, surface properties and undulations that might appear in real life.
Methinks some people need to be repeatedly beat on the head with a stack of Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics”, especially with pages 48ff. If you make something more realistic, it moves from a concept or an idea to a specific thing. User interfaces typically convey concepts or ideas, not specific things; they are full of symbols. The little house isn’t really a little house, it’s “home”. The eye isn’t really an eye, it means “I want to look at this”. The little camera isn’t really a camera, it means “click here to see your pictures”.
Realism is rarely a good idea if you’re trying to communicate ideas; details distract from the ideas the stuff on your screen is trying to convey to you.
Sure, all that 3D stuff is pretty, but it’s also potentially distracting and confusing. It often makes stuff harder to use.
I think I need to write a blog entry about this.