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Virtual reality (VR) is a modern technology that is constantly being developed to simplify the process of how we interact with digital products. 

VR contributes to a lot of humanized user interfaces, in which interaction with the digital product is consistent with the natural behavior of humans. 

This article, Applying UX in VR (Virtual Reality), is a quick guide for UX designers on how to apply virtual reality in UX design. 

The following subtopics are also covered:

Large companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook invest billions of dollars in developing VR technologies as many see the potential of VR tech in future interactions. 

Many believe that VR will pave the way to more significant changes in society than mobile phone technology or mobile apps.   


Defining different realities

Virtual reality (VR) referrers to completely immersive VR experiences simulated as digital reality. In this sense, we are completely replacing the visual and auditory stimuli of physical situations with a virtual environment.

While the immersive technology industry is pretty straightforward, we can see some competition as well, which branched out into different kinds of terms:

Physical reality

This refers to the mass and energy that Albert Einstein described, where we can perceive physical reality or the physical world with our five senses without any digital enhancements.

Virtual reality

This is a complete immersive simulated digital reality. This kind of reality replaces the visual and auditory stimuli of the physical reality in any designed environment.

Augmented reality (AR)

Augmented reality refers to the digital data and imagery that are superimposed on physical reality. This augmented reality experience is like having a computer screen overlay what you usually perceive as your world.

Some examples of augmented reality AR are watching a tourist commercial with an overlay of interactive data to define the descriptions of the real world places, monuments, etc., that you can click and select. 

Mixed reality (MR)

According to Microsoft, mixed reality is differentiated as an immersive VR experiences that incorporates virtual and holographic objects anchored in place with physical reality or real world situations. 

For example, you can see MR used as a tool in teaching medicine. A med professor can use a virtual person and users interact with its organs and systems to show it to the students in the physical world.


What are the UX requirements of Virtual Reality

UX requirements of virtual reality

For UX designers, this is an excellent time to learn more about VR technology. Let's start with the UX requirements for VR environment tech.

The UX requirements of VR vary a lot. While there are foundations to the traditional product designs, applying these heuristics is the main focus of this article since traditionally designed products are designed for users interact with a medium such as a touchscreen or a mouse.

On the other hand, virtual reality technology products are designed using a combination of the user's body and senses, including adapted controlled devices for interaction. 

Having said that, VR, therefore, relies heavily on the following adapted or original heuristic approaches when it comes to UX:

Honesty

VR should always remain an opt-in experience, and the virtual reality vr UX should provide the freedom of choice for the user when it comes to privacy, identity, exit, and safety.

Inclusivity

The UX design for VR products should focus more on diversity and to include individuals with different physical capabilities. Since the VR environment has a unique physical control element, the UX design and development of VR products should not be inclusive or generalized for all users. It should vary based on the user's physicality. 

Safety

UX designers should consider that the product does not risk any physical harm to the users, the environment, and those who are close by. This includes situations like over-exposure to VR, which may lead to harmful effects on the user's physical and emotional wellbeing.

Comprehension

Creating a virtual reality product requires adding helpful guidance to users for them to understand the whole idea of a VR environment in which they reside. Additionally, users need to feel in control and at present in the environment as well as empowered to understand specific inherent rules.

Interactivity

Applying UX to virtual reality products should have an eye towards not just passively experiencing VR products but also for interacting with them. It is required to create a VR product with the ability to pick up, move, shape, and intuitively create objects.


Design principles to consider

Text readability

Your beautiful Christmas user interface IU elements will look pixelized because of how the display resolution is with VR products. 

This means that the text is hard to read, and there will be a high level of aliasing on straight lines. To avoid this, refrain from using big text blocks and highly detailed user interface elements.

Also, consider the intended viewing distance or how far you should sign these elements to be viewed. Determine the optimal distance that these screens were intended to be viewed from and that intended viewing distance will provide the size of the screen plus the size and density of the content on it.

Distance independent millimeter (DMM) is 1 millimeter at a meter away. This is an angular unit that follows a millimeter as it scales of into the distance.

You can expect virtual screens to have different intended viewing distances. From the vantage point, all screens are intended to be viewed from, and they should look the same to the user. They will have an angular size where text should be readable, buttons are clickable, and there should be a motion to move the same as well. 

Ergonomics

Consider creating VR products that are not exhausting to use. It may be exciting in, at the same time challenging to create futuristic user interfaces. However, these designs are not user-friendly simply because they do not provide comfort to the user.

You may check the below diagram to illustrate the comfortable ranges of motion zones:

At some point, every one of us experienced some sort of text neck syndrome from looking down at our mobile devices for a very long period of time. Depending on how far you can lean over, you can develop a poor posture that can create a lot of pressure under your spinal cord. People who experience this can lead to permanent nerve damage in the spine and neck.

Simulator sickness or motion sickness

Virtual reality introduces us to a new set of physiological elements for design. For example, you can see flight simulators used by pilots in their flight training. 

However, virtual reality also has the potential to present mismatches situations between physical and visual motion cues. This event can lead to nausea, known as simulator sickness or motion sickness, or when your eyes think you are moving, but in reality, your body does not.  

You need to have a better understanding of the virtual reality design and its relation to physiological elements in order to create a successful app and at the same time ensure your users to avoid any simulator sickness or motion sickness. 

Changes in the level of brightness

Also, consider the sudden changes in brightness. Like for example, the distance between the screen and your users' eyes can cause a transition from a dark scene to a bright scene which may result in a discomfort ask users to adjust to the sudden level of brightness.

Placement of buttons

When it comes to fuse buttons placement, avoid placing these buttons in close distance to each other because they only work best if they are large targets set far apart from each other.

Where multiple smaller fuse buttons that are laid out in close proximity to each other, The user accidentally clicks on the wrong button. So, in this case, smaller buttons placed closer to each other should have a direct click to activate.


Recommended UX VR designing tools

VR tools

Gravity Sketch

Gravity Sketch VR is a 3D design tool and platform Used by cross-disciplinary teams to create, collaborate, and review in an entirely new way.

Some of the highlight features of this tool include a geometry engine with some incorporated tools available through various VR devices. 

UX designers can also enjoy its cloud platform that provides a range of workflow and file management tools that can also be accessed through the web browser. 

Google blocks

Google blocks, known as Google VR, is a tool made by Google that highlights six simple tools to use to create design models from simple to complex design ideas.

UX designers can build designs in Google VR that can be shared via links, .obj exports, are animated gifs.

The Google VR tool makes it easy for UX designers to create a prototype that looks and feels in 3D.

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop has its own VR tools as well. UX designers can make use of the Adobe 180 and 360/VR editing tools. These tools help create movies, video games, training videos, and other simulations for better storytelling.

Unity 3D

Unity treaty is by far one of the most ubiquitous all be art tools used in UX design. You can directly use the VR mode to preview your work in a head-mounted display which is very productive in this signing for virtual reality products within a virtual environment. The Unity 3D tool This is probably one of the famous default tools for your development simply because it is easy to use and create prototype vr app.

Blender

Blender is a tool that is becoming popular for VR UX designers because it is a free medium app and open-source software written in Python and can be used in Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.

Expect the documentation of this tool to be very comprehensive. You can use the tool for modeling, UV mapping, and in animation, Among many other cool features. 


Getting started with VR design

Immerse yourself

Probably one of the best and easiest ways to get started with virtual and augmented reality design is to spend some time for total immersion. 

If you are a beginner and on a budget, you can start by downloading several VR apps into your smartphone or tablet. There are several free vr app that you can try out there. 

As you explore, make sure to take down notes on what works and what doesn't from a UX/UI point of view. remember to consider several technical limitations and check if the hardware is helpful or is hindering the old user experience 

Check for other elements that you're drawn into and ask yourself several questions, such as whether you like the total immersion of using the VR product.

Understanding spatial designs

Virtual reality products are all about 3 dimensions, and the user interface is no longer restricted to do a flat rectangular screen or surface.

As a UX designer of VR products, think about how the design is in the real world and apply it to the virtual world. Consider design elements such as sightlines, font sizes, and dynamic menus. 

Start with a basic designing process.

No matter what your end-product is, the design process is the same as when you create designs for a generic website or an app. you start the project by aligning your goals, collaborating with teams, and brainstorming ideas. 

It is also essential to use whiteboards, pen, and paper, or helpful design software that will help you in the early stages of the design process. 

Once the initial concept is refined, the next step is getting into the user's mindset to begin planning the user workflow, which includes processes like learning the log user data insights. 

The final stage of the design is the wireframe, wherein the designers should lay out the user interface to be available for the users.

Prototyping

You may start with a small rapid prototyping early stage of the design. This way, you can work with all unforeseen issues with your ideas before getting too deep into the design process.

You can utilize some of the VR tools available under the previous section of this article.

Virtual visualization

As with any this hiring process, excellent visual design is essential. Be careful in applying virtual design elements too drastically; instead, try to stick to the traditional design elements that your users are familiar with. This way, you avoid too many learning curves for the user.

Keeping things real

An excellent virtual reality design also guides the user through the user interface by using hints and suggested feedback to orient the users quickly. 

Always refer to the best practices in UX/UI design and try to create a clean, simple, and user-friendly graphics. Try to allow your users to familiarize themselves with the virtual world experiences by providing familiar points and real world visual metaphors.


Usability Testing in VR

usability testing in VR

Lets us discuss the usability testing in VR, particularly several useful pieces of advice on how to recruit participants.

How to get your sample participants

While VR technology is getting into the mainstream, the existing VR tools and products are still quite expensive and the technology is not yet universally adopted by a lot of people.

Because of these problems, it is quite a challenge to find possible participants who would provide you with good insights. We recommend you recruit participants existing and future users for testing VR products. This way, you will get a nice grip on your insights and a nice sample size to represent your present and future market.

Be mindful of your participants' physical condition

Always be mindful of your participants' physical condition. Like for example, participants who wear eyeglasses may need their headset to be adjusted to make them comfortable while wearing the headset.

You may warn your participants to wear contact lenses instead before attending the test to set their expectations and avoid future disappointments.

Consider the medical and psychological conditions of your participants

VR technology can be intense, immersive, and appear very life-like that may cause your brain and body to react accordingly.

Consider your participants' medical and mental conditions before you recruit them since the content produced from VR products can trigger increased heart rate, rise in blood pressure, panic attacks, anxiety, and other conditions that may arise during the test.


Why dive into UX VR design

The demand for immersive VR experiences needs great designers. However, the problem is only a few UX designers Have the proper skills to do the work. And this is the problem.

I believe we have already reached the peak point for web technology. UX designers should remain relevant and understand the need to shift careers to help supply the demand that the design industry needs, especially after the massive transformation that digital products, services, and experience would bring about soon.

In this digital age, we are entering another significant change. However, this time, it is not from the web but rather from flat screens portraying pages and videos that offer either partially or fully immersive digital experiences (including virtual and augmented reality).


How to start a career in UX VR

Immerse and have fun

You can start your UX VR career journey by exploring new immersive technologies for yourself. 

There are so many available be or tools you can try, and just remember to have fun while learning the design behind these virtual world reality products.

Learn the concepts of VR experience design

UX designers who would like to start in VR designing should also learn the concepts, skills, and techniques involved with it. 

The learning process will vary depending on the type of immersive VR experience you would like to learn, such as virtual, augmented, or mixed reality-based from real-world design ideas.

On a positive note, there are a lot of UX principles and best practices that are carried over to UX VR design. Some of these common concepts include interactivity, narrative structure, conversion, visual design, information architecture, prototyping, and etc.

Attend relevant events to add knowledge and skills

There is a lot of opportunity on the latest immersive VR experience designs from industry leaders who are creating them. If it is an expo type of event, you will also get to try many immersive methods. 

Read related resources

VR and other realities (AR and MR) have been around for quite a time. You may find several helpful readings on these industries, making it relatively easy to learn your way of designing VR products based from real world design ideas.

Constantly seek our immersive design projects to work on

If possible and the opportunity knocks on your door, it is a good idea to accept the challenge of designing or working on a VR product. By just showing an interest in the technology and immersing yourself in the whole experience of VR design, you may soon get several related assignments that you can use as a stepping stone to a more complex and challenging UX VR product design.


The Future of VR technology products

metaverse

On October 28, 2020, the social platform giant, Facebook announced that another addition to their VR product line called Horizon Home, which is an addition to Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset.

This additional feature will provide users a way to immerse to interacting as digital avatars and users can start playing video games together in a virtual environment that Facebook created in their VR system.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg expects the metaverse to reach billions of people. He also stressed that this change will bring a lot of benefits to e-commerce and to society in general. For example, in metaverse, it will allow privacy and parental controls.

Facebook users can expect new VR features in the coming months, which include new fitness apps and accessories. Users will also have the ability to invite their friends to join FB Messenger via VR.


Last thoughts

Soon, more companies may need the help of UX designers to design for an array of VR, AR, and MR products and vr apps. 

The VR technology or immersive industry will soon be the next most crucial platform since the introduction of mobile phones. There will be a high demand from companies needing UX designers who have the right skills to design for these new products and mobile apps. 

Now is the time to start learning how to design for immersive products. It is also the perfect time to seek new opportunities to help you develop new skills and knowledge that you can use for UX immersive design experience. 

Mary Ann Dalangin

About the author

A content marketing strategist and a UX writer with years of experience in the digital marketing industry.

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