For several years now, virtual and augmented reality technology has developed at an unprecedented rate, while the applications of these technologies are no longer limited to gaming. For example, important stakeholders in e-commerce see great promise in these relatively new technologies. Despite the growing democratization of virtual reality headsets and the ever-improving performance of smartphones and tablets, the design and development of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) interfaces are still new to most of us. Indeed, AR and VR are bringing new design technical challenges into focus.
Tools for designing AR/VR interfaces are few, while headsets remain prohibitively expensive.
Before considering AR/VR interfaces in greater detail, we should rather ask how they are made. In fact, the prototyping of tools for designing and developing virtual and augmented reality interfaces are different from those used in more traditional design and development applications, e.g. Adobe, InVision, etc. Furthermore, it is often necessary to have access to a powerful computer in order to test prototype AR/VR development software.
In addition, it is equally difficult for designers to find inspiration when designing these interfaces. It is also difficult for designers to get hold of reliable information on good practice in AR/VR development, since this field is still largely unexplored. Where good practices for web and mobile development can be found in books and on the internet, AR/VR development is still in its infancy. Fortunately, things are changing. In fact, following the first commercial successes of AR interfaces such as Pokemon-go, some of these interfaces have gone on to become some of the most successful mobile apps of all time.
What methodologies are needed when designing AR/VR interfaces?
Firstly, given that this sector is, for the time being, still relatively underdeveloped, some space should be left for experimentation. There is a good chance that your very first AR/VR interfaces will be anything but intuitive, even if you have extensive experience designing web and mobile interfaces. The creation of AR/VR apps should in no way be compared with everyday development jobs, since poorly designed AR/VR could potentially put prospective users in physical danger. While immersed in a virtual reality experience, people get headaches sometimes. Similarly, animations that seem rich and vibrant on a website may be completely non consumable in AR/VR form. Developers should rather err on the side of caution. Also, as a future AR/VR developer, you shouldn’t forget that you’re working in 3 dimensions. As a result, traditional wireframes are often ineffective when it comes to designing virtual reality experiences. In a quest for ever more immersive experiences, some designers have started experimenting with DIY 3D wireframing in rooms populated with pieces of cardboard, representing each element of the interface. Here volunteers have to navigate custom-built “mazes”, then give their feedback afterwards.
AR and VR will continue becoming more and more democratized in the years ahead, while user and business interests in this sector keep growing. It would therefore be worthwhile for designers to keep an eye on this sector, considering that major trends in prototyping and design are starting to emerge.
Translated by Willem Beckmann