Users and organizations alike are adopting Augmented Reality at an increasing rate. So much so that the global AR market size is expected to scale from USD 6.12 billion in 2021 to USD 97.76 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 48.6%. And, in this context, augmented reality design plays a crucial role.
Such unprecedented growth presents a unique opportunity for designers to leverage AR and stand out from other solutions in their niche. But for AR to take the practical leap from science fiction to reality needs a certain level of upskilling coupled with risk-taking ability on the part of designers, giving them the center stage in AR innovation.
UX and UI designers are uniquely positioned to provide their expertise in the early stages of AR product development. Understanding user needs and expectations, designing flows and interactions, and crafting a delightful user experience can help create an effective augmented reality solution.
5 Key UI UX Pillars for Augmented Reality Design
The success of an interface defines how discreetly users can interact with it without distractions that arise from the other elements in the interface. This holds true in the context of augmented reality as well. However, given AR’s immersive and attention-grabbing nature, designers need to be more aware of how users interact with their product or platform. They can do this by paying attention to the following 5 critical pillars of UI UX in AR:
Surroundings in which users will be interacting with the product must be considered for augmented reality design. It Includes everything from the lighting conditions to the physical space where users are situated.
How users will be moving around in the virtual or physical space and what needs to be considered while designing for movement.
How users will be introduced to the product and get started with it; how augmented reality design can help.
How users will be interacting with the product, both physically and virtually.
How users will be notified of their actions, as well as the consequences or results of those actions.
By paying attention to these critical pillars, UX and UI designers can create more seamless and intuitive augmented reality designs.
The Role of UI UX on AR
The goal of UI and UX design is to simplify complex tasks, improve the usability of a product, and make the user experience more delightful. This is especially important in AR, where users need to interact with virtual objects in the real world. Some critical UI UX decisions that designers need to make to create holistic AR solutions include:
Finding the Right Spatial UI Elements:
Screen space is at a premium in AR, and designers need to consider how best to use it carefully. Which elements should be on screen at all times? What should be hidden until needed? How can users interact with virtual objects in the real world? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered when designing for augmented reality. Two prominent types of spatial UI elements to consider are:
these elements always stay in view, and users typically interact with them by looking at them. Common examples include virtual heads-up displays (HUDs) and contextual menus.
these elements only appear when users get close to them. An example would be an AR notification that pops up when the user gets within a certain distance.
Driving Intuitive Interactions:
In AR, users need to interact with virtual objects in the real world in a way that they have not experienced before. There is a complete absence of tactile interactions, and users no longer have the feedback mechanism of a mouse or keyboard. Thus, this makes it imperative for UI UX designers to understand how this impacts the overall UI design. For instance, in a 3D space, scrolling is done by moving your hand up and down instead of sideways. Some everyday interactions that need to be considered include:
this involves selecting one or more objects from a group.
allows users to interact with virtual objects, for example, rotating or scaling them.
this helps users move through virtual spaces.
Creating a Delightful User Experience:
AR is an immersive experience, and users can get lost in it for hours at a time. This makes it essential for designers to create a delightful user experience that will keep users hooked. Some ways to achieve this through augmented reality design include:
– Using engaging visuals:
animations, colors, and textures can help keep users engaged.
– Making interactions easy and fun:
design interactions that are easy to use and provide a sense of satisfaction when used.
– Considering the environment:
consider the user’s surroundings and how they might affect the user experience.
Putting the User First:
Putting the user first when designing for AR is crucial. Understanding their needs and expectations is essential in creating a successful solution. By focusing on the user, UI UX designers can help create a practical augmented reality experience that actually solves real-world problems. To achieve this, designers need to:
– Conduct user research
understanding how users currently use technology and their needs and expectations for AR is crucial for designing an effective solution.
– Create personas and scenarios:
these help designers visualize the different types of users that will be using the product and what they might need from it.
– Design flows and interactions:
designing how users will interact with the product helps meet all their requirements.
– Test prototypes:
testing prototypes with users help ensure that the product is intuitive and engaging. This also brings us to the next point.
Building Rapid AR Prototypes:
One of the best ways to get feedback from users is to build rapid AR prototypes and test them. This helps understand how users interact with the product and what needs to improve. Some tips for creating rapid AR prototypes include:
– Using low-fi mockups:
help to visualize ideas and get feedback from users quickly.
– Creating simple interactions:
keeping interactions simple allows for quick testing and feedback.
– Building for different platforms – creating prototypes that can be used on various platforms makes it easier to test with users.
Virtual visualization tools such as 3D modeling and mockups help to visualize the product in a realistic environment and get feedback from users on how they would like to interact with it. This also includes key decisions such as:
– Avoid unnecessary learning curves by using design tools that the team is already familiar with.
– Designing for all the device types in which the end-user is likely to experience the UI.
– Optimizing for real-world usages such as occlusions and lighting.
– Including haptics where it makes sense to improve the user experience.
Guiding Users With Hints and Feedbacks:
AR can be a new experience for users, and they may not know how to interact with the product. This makes it essential for designers to provide constant hints and interaction feedback to help users navigate and understand the product. Some ways to do this include:
– Using icons and labels:
help to explain what each interaction does.
– Providing feedback on interactions:
letting users know what happened due to their interaction helps them understand the product.
– Using motion feedback:
providing motion feedback helps users orient themselves in the virtual space.
– Boosting product familiarity
Imparting a sense of familiarity in user experiences with the help of reference points, visual metaphors, and skeuomorphism.
Why Context Is the Most Important Variable In AR Experiences
AR is considers a popular design trend in 2022. However, in AR, the context is the most important variable as it defines the boundaries within which the user can interact with the virtual content. This means that designers need to pay close attention to the user’s surroundings and their effect on the experience. This is crucial as users are likely to access the same app features or interaction elements in a wide variety of real-world environments. And these are likely to translate into varying levels of social or physical hurdles in UX that designers will need to account for.
Some things to keep in mind in this aspect include:
– The user’s location:
consider how the user’s location might affect the experience. For example, users are more likely to be comfortable with shorter sessions with limited movements in public environments to avoid drawing attention to themselves. But designers can bank on much longer sessions when users are in private settings. Engagement can be complex, with users wanting to explore more in such cases.
– The user’s field of view:
consider what the user can see in their surroundings and how it might affect the experience. For example, suppose a user is in a busy street. In that case, they are likely to be more interested in contextual information related to their surroundings, such as directions, POIs, and nearby establishments. On the other hand, if they are in a park, they might be more interested in information about the wildlife around them.
– The user’s interaction with other people or objects:
be aware of how they might interact with others or things around them. For example, if a user is looking at a product in a store, they might not prefer interruption from an advertisement.
– The user’s level of immersion:
consider how immersive the experience should be. For example, a high level of immersion is more appropriate for an experience that enhances the training experience. In contrast, a low level of immersion might be more suitable for an entertainment experience.
In conclusion, designing augmented reality experiences requires close collaboration between UX and UI designers to create intuitive and engaging products for users. With that being said, the marriage of UI UX and AR is on the verge of being indispensable for designers. They are complementary to each other and their focus on different aspects of the design process makes them both necessary for a successful AR product. As AR technology becomes more refined, the need for good UI/UX design will only become more significant.