Tilburg University – Skeuomorphic, Flat or Material Design: Requirements for Designing Mobile Planning Applications for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Research on user interface design for students with autism


Master Thesis


Tilburg University


User Research


User research, Prototyping, Wireframing, Facillitating workshops
People with autism experience things a bit different from people without ASD. This fact made me curious, how would this affect user interface design? Due to this curiousity, we (Jip ter Voort and I) did research on this topic in 2015. We looked at three different design styles (Skeuomorphic, Flat or Material Design) to investigate which of these three would fit best for students with autism.

The hitch

There are lots of hitches if you’re a student, especially when you’re a student with autism. One of these hitches is planning all needed tasks. Therefore, we decided to do a deep dive in the world of students with autism, so we could to find out how to make their life a bit easier.

Project approach

The research was build upon different phases. During the first phase, we did in-depth interviews and workshops with 11 students with autism to find out what kind of needs they have. But also to check out what kind of requirements they mention for user interfaces. Subsequently, we used this insights to make three agenda app prototypes, one for each design style (Skeuomorphic, Flat en Material Design), within InVision. These prototypes were finally used to do a user test with the same participants. This resulted in a lot of insights but overall we could conclude that Material Design works best for smartphone applications designed for students with autism.

The end result

The paper 0f this research was presented during Mobile HCI ’16 in Florence, Italië. Would you like to read this paper? You can download the paper below.