In the previous parts of this series, we have discussed the latest design principles that help designers produce the most optimized digital experience; as well as artificial intelligence is impacting the way design is presented to the users. In this last section, the focus will be shifted to another fast-growing technology in China and the world. Yes, you may have got the answer: they are Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.
What are AR and VR?
There could not have been a discussion about trends in 2018 without mentioning AR and VR. Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR) are technologies that, by now, have been around for a while, enabling the users to visualize a completely different environment without actually being there.
With VR, the experience of visualizing places, checking out properties and even gaming has changed to a great extent. Soon, it may be possible to view any place around the world without actually visiting it using VR gadgets. This experience will be made possible by combining various sensors with the applications to display the content according to the user interaction or movement. Thanks to AR, we can create lively 3D images using projections. AR enables people to demonstrate 3D models of building, machinery or any object that one could think of and even allow interacting with it.
AR/VR technology is rising impressively in China. A research by Worldpay revealed that 95% of the respondents have used VR or AR technology in the past three months. Also, 84% of them believed that AR/VR is the future of shopping. These statistics indicated the growing demand for this technology and the necessity for UX designers to adapt their design to bring the most optimized experience to the users.
So How Are AR and VR Changing UX Design?
AR/VR technology is bringing various changes to UX design. In this article, we will examine 3 of the most prominent ones:
- Shifting to first-person design
- Reducing the interaction cost to perform a task
- Leaving more room to interact
1. Shifting to first-person design
The user perspective has changed with the presence of VR technology: books, movies or apps on your mobile phones occur as a third-person experience because there is still a distance between you and the device, and you may also be distracted by external factors during your interaction. In the case of VR however, the viewer is in the first person and totally immersed in the experience.
Therefore, UX designers must adapt their design to the first-person experience to fully leverage the VR technology. How to do that? UX designers must keep in mind a few factors when designing VR experiences:
- In VR, the size of content is determined by the distance between the user and that piece of content. Therefore, designers need to be careful about the scale of content and appropriate viewing distance.
- Using VR headsets for more than 20 minutes may lead to some sort of fatigue or nausea, so it is essential for your design to have a fixed reference point, such as a horizon line or a dashboard that remains stable as you move.
- The aim of VR is to provide a real experience to the users, so the design needs to be as natural and intuitive as possible. The following diagrams help to illustrate the comfortable range of motion zones:
The comfortable range of motion zones (Mike Alger, Alex Chu)
Here is an example of interactive VR experience, allowing users to walk around in virtual space, and to interact with objects using their hands. When experiencing the virtual reality content via VR headset, it feels like you are seeing all the contents directly rather through a digital screen. Therefore, all the elements - shapes, movements, interaction, text and sounds have to be well estimated to bring the most natural experience to the users.
Example of interactive VR application
2. Reducing the interaction cost to perform a task
Another revolution brought to UX design by the AR technology is the reduction of interaction cost. The interaction cost is “the sum of efforts — mental and physical — that the users must deploy in interacting with a site in order to reach their goals.” With AR technology, the number of commands required to perform a task is reduced significantly, making the interaction become more efficient and reduce the users’ effort. As such, the UX is affected.
Let’s consider a customer purchasing new clothes at a department store with augmented reality “dressing rooms”, customers are allowed to try different outfits without the need to put them out physically. What the users need to do is just standing in front of a screen that looks like a mirror and chooses the outfit they want to try. Direct interaction with the screen may or may not be necessary. In this case, only the hand gesture is required to make the navigation. The screen will collect their physical dimensional information automatically, and then display their look with the selected outfit. This new approach saves the customers’ time and helps them compare the outfit easily by recording their choice. After finishing choosing the outfit, customers can add the items to shopping cart and checkout directly on the fitting device. The whole journey of fitting and purchasing outfit is much more streamlined thanks to this new approach - and the UX needs to be as simple as possible to provide an easy-to-use experience.
Measure your body size
Use hand gesture to choose your outfit, direct interaction with the screen. UX is barebone.
Add the desired items to cart
Similar to the virtual fitting room, the Lenskart’s Compare Looks feature is another example of how AR technology can help to reduce interaction cost. Normally, a limit of online shopping is that customers cannot try out their desired items. But by using this feature provided by Lenskart, customers can definitely try and compare various glasses at home using a computer with a camera. These online stores allow the customers to try the glasses on their face virtually by featuring application that would detect the face using the webcam with the power of AR technology. When opening the “Compare Looks” function on the website, the system will detect the customers’ built-in camera and ask for their permission to use it and start recording a short video. Then, the application will provide a live visual of how the glasses would appear on the customer’s face. Then, they can purchase their desired glasses via Lenskart online store.
Lenskart’s Compare Looks feature is another example of the reduced interaction cost and subsequent barebone UX
3. Leaving more room to interact
Another purpose of AR application is to lower the total cognitive load, or the amount of mental processing power needed to complete a task. For example, in the case of DesignChain virtual furniture sampling, users can use their smartphone camera to scan the floor of the room they’re looking to decorate. That is, of course, a great service offered to users, but UX needs a different approach to not only let users interact with the AR functionalities and their surroundings but also guide them into the right direction and streamline the process.
Design Chain - applying AR in furniture purchasing process
In the case of DesignChain, the UX has been changed to allow AR technology to properly support the app’s mission. First of all, a new CTA is included on the product page, called View in Your Room. This CTA will direct the users to the AR feature. Then, when the feature is launched, the smartphone camera is enabled to scan the background of the room and the virtual product is placed on top of the background. Here the users can realize their imagination of how the furniture will look like in their room. Users can also choose other products from the list to compare.
Similar to the example of DesignChain, where AR technology helps to solve the difficulty when choosing a suitable furniture for your room, UX designers need to reconsider the journey and how UX can help the users better interact with the application and get the most out of AR.
2018 will be an exciting year and will bring fresh new ideas to the UX designers around the world. Thanks to the rise in popularity of new technologies such as AI and, the trends in 2018 have evolved accordingly, now focusing on allowing the users to have a better experience and interact them even more easily with the application or website.
The UX has changed significantly due to the application of Artificial Intelligence. Nowadays, every request by the user can come with a various suggestion in the form of dynamic content tailored to that user’s behavior. Sometimes, AI can provide the users with what they need before they even know they need it.
With AR/VR technology, the UX has shifted to first-person design so the users can be totally immersed in the content. Therefore, certain designs should be adjusted to avoid irritation to the eyes when viewing the content for a long time.
Besides, AR/VR also simplifies the user journey, making the interaction become more efficient and reduce the users’ effort and cognitive load when performing an action with the digital assets.
About the author
Project Director & Partner of IT Consultis
With a solid 10 years’ experience under his belt, Florian Olivier is the orchestra director of all projects at ITC. Graduated from one of the top 5 French engineering universities, he possesses a deep understanding of the digital landscape both in China and in Europe, where he confidently delivered large, complex projects for clients such as GAP, Swatch, Sunglass Hut, and many more. With a software development background and a passion for innovation, he oversees all projects from the very beginning till the end, ensuring even the smallest details are taken care of.