The implementation of VR experiences can be challenging and require careful planning and execution. However, the rewards of a successful VR experience are immense—users will have an experience they’ll never forget and want to try over and over again. Let’s take a look at some important considerations for VR implementation.
For UX designers, VR presents a challenge akin to the one experienced in the ’60s before the invention of the mouse by computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart: how can we interact with a computer more efficiently? As designers, we're constantly exploring new ways to approach this issue, from gestures to hand tracking to haptic feedback, and seeing what works best is exciting. Therefore, to create immersive and intuitive experiences, we need in-depth knowledge of platform technology and craft experiences that guide users through the device's features.
VR Implementation Essentials: Key Considerations for Success
Once ready for implementation, consider several key factors, such as the hardware and software required, the virtual environment design, and the user interface.
Choose a VR platform or engine that suits you: Consider your specific needs and the available resources and support. Some popular VR platforms include Oculus, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and Windows Mixed Reality. You can also explore common VR engines like Unity3D and Unreal Engine, which offer built-in VR support and extensive community resources. It's worth noting that the "friction funnel of VR"—or the level of time and effort required to achieve a fully immersive experience—is not under the designers' control.
Virtual Environment Design: The goal of your virtual environment should always be intuitive and engaging. This includes the design of detailed objects and environments, like realistic lighting and sound effects to create that sense of presence.
User Interface Design: A significant advancement in UI/UX design was the introduction of flat design, which is the antithesis of 3D visualization. As a result, designers must account for the added intricacy and expanded range of interaction methods with a 3D model. It is crucial to incorporate menus, settings, and head-up displays (HUDs) that are easy to use and understand for the user.
Interaction Design: Enable users to interact with the virtual environment with motion controllers. Implement mechanics like grabbing objects, interacting with buttons, and performing gestures. Also, decide on the method of user movement within the VR world (teleportation, smooth locomotion, or a combination). Introduce these interactions through a smooth onboarding experience to minimize the effects of the friction funnel of VR. This is because, unlike other digital mediums, the initial landing spaces are launched from a dark, empty space in VR.
"The most effective interaction design follows patterns the human brain already understands and knows."
— Cornell Hillman, Author, CG artist and XR designer.
You can follow the steps of immersive media design to manage the onboarding stage:
Introduce new elements slowly so people will feel safe. For instance, in a puzzle game, start with simple puzzles and gradually increase the complexity level as the player progresses.
Create a sense of familiarity for users to relate to the environment. For example, in a VR shopping experience, you could use a layout similar to a real-world store.
Provide a glimpse of the virtual world's style, scale, design concept, mood, and vision, so users know what they can expect from the experience: In a VR tour of an art museum, show a preview of the artwork that users will see in the upcoming exhibition.
Start with an enjoyable or exciting element to create a positive attitude and set the tone for the rest of the experience. Let's say you design a VR rollercoaster experience; you may start with a thrilling drop or twist to create excitement and get users engaged from the beginning.
Remember, VR development requires an in-depth understanding of 3D game development, UX design, and VR-specific considerations. Stay updated with the latest advancements in VR technology and user preferences to create compelling and enjoyable VR experiences.
The Take Away
You need a deep understanding of platform technology to create immersive and intuitive VR experiences. To ensure successful VR implementation, choose the right VR platform or engine, and consider specific needs, resources, and available support. Popular VR platforms like Oculus, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and Windows Mixed Reality, along with engines like Unity3D and Unreal Engine, offer built-in VR support and extensive community resources.
Effective virtual environment design is also essential for successful VR experiences. Detailed object and environment design, including realistic lighting and sound effects, deepen immersion and engagement. Additionally, VR-specific user interface design should accommodate the added intricacy and expanded range of interaction methods within a 3D space. Interaction design enables user engagement with the virtual environment through motion controllers, including mechanics like object interaction, button operation, and gestures. Furthermore, the onboarding phase in VR helps minimize the "friction funnel" and ensures a gradual introduction of elements and creates familiarity. To succeed in VR development, combine expertise in 3D game development, UX design, and VR-specific considerations. Stay updated on the latest VR technology and user preferences. Careful consideration and application of these elements will help you offer an unforgettable experience.
References and Where to Learn More
Take advantage of this insightful Master Class with VR expert Mel Slater, How To Influence Behavior Through Virtual Reality Narratives.
Check out this article from Road to VR, An Untapped Opportunity to Reduce VR Friction: Pre-headset Selection & Loading.
Read the book, UX for XR: User Experience Design and Strategies for Immersive Technologies by Cornell Hillman.
Hero image: © Job Simulator, Fair Use.