Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Neumorphism...just for the fun of it...


First of all happy new year to all of you. I took this week off which gave me some time to play around with new stuff and as you can already guess it's about neumorphism.

Well you might ask yourself what the heck is neumorphism and how is it related to ui stuff. If you remember the early days of the the iPhone, there was a ui style that was called skeumorphism which means the ui design looked really realistic. Sometimes a bit too realistic but to be honest I'm still a fan of skeumorphism, especially if you take a look at older people that are not that used to modern technology. They really have a hard time to understand all the new technology. But if you show them a ui that looks like things they know from the real world, they recognize them and know how to use them.

At some point the whole skeumorphism was a bit too much and Apple decided to radically change the complete ui design to the so called flat ui. And to be honest the first version was simply terrible. Even for experienced users the ui was not self explaining any more but you have to learn that colored text might be a button but doesn't have to be. I really like the clean style of a flat ui but it comes with a drawback when you look at the usability. The self explanation of a ui simply got lost. 

Over the years Apple learned that the pure flat ui was a bit too flat and decided to make the whole thing a bit more usable again which leads us to the current ui design (which still is hard to learn for unexperienced people).

At some point neumorphism became a thing which is a bit like a mixture from skeumorphism and flat ui design. So there is no real definition of skeumorphism and for that reason you will find ui's that look not all the same as in the flat ui era but have different looks (which is good).

If you are interested in some examples you might want to take a look at dribbble.

Neumorphism makes use of shadows to define ui component borders which gives a button in principle two states an embossed or rised and a sunken state. In combination with rounded corners the whole ui becomes a more soft touch which can work for specific apps.

The problem with neumorphism is that it does not work with all color combinations. This is because of the shadows it uses, they won't work on white or black backgrounds. On some colors the shadows work great on others not so neumorphism is not the general solution for ui design but just another ui design style that can be useful and refreshing for some applications.

So I've spend every day around 1.5 hours in the early morning to play around with JavaFX and neumorphism to get figure out how to make it work. I would love to use css for this because in principle this would mean you could simply load another css file and you are done...BUT...unfortunately in the JavaFX css you cannot chain effects as you can do in code.

Meaning to say in JavaFX code you can chain effects like a DropShadow that can have an input of another DropShadow. With this you can simply create an effect of a sunken button etc.

But this is not possible in JavaFX css where you can only have one effect on one node which is not enough :(

So for that reason I've decided to create my own controls (at least a few to play around with). And again I used the JavaFX Canvas node for that. I found myself more and more using the Canvas node for all kinds of things simply because it saves nodes on the scene graph, it's fast and if you need it you can simply port it to HTML.

And this is what I came up with...

I've created a Button, ToggleButton, TextField, RadioButton, CheckBox, ChoiceBox, Switch and a Container.

Just keep in mind that these controls are not meant to be used in production because they miss some features but they might work for some demos (at least I will use them for demos) :)

The Container component which you can see in the lower row of components can be used to give other controls the ability to make use of the shadow effects. If you would like to use a circular Medusa gauge in a neumorphic ui you could add it to a circular Container.

To see how it can be used you might want to take a look at the Demo class.

The code is as always available over at github.

So that's it for today and don't forget...keep coding...

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