Emerging Technologies and Markets
How to design a better user experience for AR and VR

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are two emerging technologies that are set to become a huge part of our society.

In fact, their combined market size is forecast to rocket to $160 billion by 2023!

These are seriously impressive figures which only go to show the power of the growing market. However, despite predictions of their success, AR and VR are not immune from needing a brilliant user experience to reach their full potential.

We also know that the user experience is hugely important in determining the likelihood of a product being accepted and welcomed by its users. And, as such, it’s a big decider in whether a product will take off.

But how do we go about creating a brilliant AR or VR products which will leave a positive lasting impression?

AR phone


Designing Joyous UX for AR

AR technology integrates digital information into the user’s current experience. To put it simply, it overlays new information “on top” of a real-time image. One of it’s most famous uses was within the Pokemon Go  app, which enabled players to “Catch Pokemon in the Real World”.

Sounds pretty cool, right?

As a relatively new phenomenon though, it is so important that the products are designed in such a way that will ensure the UX is as intended, and so that the user will benefit from the product in the way the designer hoped.

Tyler Wilson notes the importance of looking at two specific elements of design in AR products: Environmental Design and Interaction Design. He defines Environmental Design as “…the context in [which] people will be engaging with your application. Imagine looking through a ‘window’ into an enhanced (augmented) environment.”

Where the product or service will be used should be a huge consideration whilst going through the designing process. For example, if it is created to be used during the day or nighttime, in the city or countryside, in the home or in the outside world, should all impact things such as UI placement, size and colour.

On the other hand, Interaction Design, is defined by Wilson is “how you interact with the context or environment. These interactions take place within the ‘window’ of your phone screen or the viewfinder of the headset, where there exists Media and 3D objects.”

So, this part of design refers to the interaction between user and device.

Interaction Design is crucial in situations such as driving, where voice commands would be more appropriate than touch interactions. This reinforces the fact that, when designing these products, we must remember the context in which the interaction will occur.



Designing Delightful UX for VR

Where AR technology is based and built upon the user’s real life environment, Virtual Reality (VR) technology completely immerses it’s users into an entirely new – and virtual – one. That means that it usually needs VR headsets and controllers.

Sourabh Purwar stresses the importance of taking it slow during the design process within VR.

Whilst many elements of the process will be familiar for most UX researchers, it must be remembered that users are being faced with a whole new realm of technology. This is something that most of us have limited experience of! Therefore, “you’re designing for the capabilities of people as much as you’re designing for the capabilities of the system”.

Therefore, it is crucial to truly know your users before diving into any project, in order to create something that will serve them effectively in their wants and needs.

Another struggle which Sourabh Purwar notes some researchers may need to overcome is the fact that “processes for designing VR interfaces are yet to be defined globally”. This technology seems to be a grey area for all parties involved, from the designer to the user.  So, there will always be an element of ‘trial and error’ which researchers must embrace rather than resist.

AR UX on tablet


A Use Case: AR in Retail UX

A very relatable area where AR is already having an impact is within retail. Most of us will have witnessed first hand the shift from in-store shopping to online shopping thanks to technologies such as the Internet, but now we are about to go through another shift!

Due to its very nature, AR enables consumers to ‘try before they buy’.

It could allow us to impose an image of the product we are looking to buy, into our real world environment. Dan Sapio talks of his use of Ray-Ban’s Virtual-Try-On feature in facilitating the purchase of his sunglasses. This technology allows the consumer to try on a product without having to physically visit a store.

The takeaways

It’s clear to see that AR and VR technologies are certainly here to stay, and seem to both have very promising futures ahead of them.

As users, it’s exciting to see which tasks and scenarios could be completely transformed by AR and VR technology, and for businesses, it should be inspiring to think of ways these technologies could be implemented to revolutionise your end customers’ experiences.

Most importantly, when designing and implementing VR and AR technology, the user must always be kept in mind! New technologies bring new challenges, and knowing who will be interacting with them allows you to make sure they are ticking the right boxes.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so be sure to send us a tweet with your opinions!

The Snap Out Team