UX Design in Virtual Reality

Imagine being under water without getting wet or floating in outer space without being an astronaut. Although the technology that exist today are still evolving, we all might be able to do that soon.

Virtual Reality is simulating the real world through the use of technology. People are able to experience things that are non-existent to the real world or experience extreme adventures without physically getting hurt. The virtual world trick’s a person’s brain and tells them what they are seeing is real. But what’s truly amazing is how our brain works to adjust our senses to produce a real experience. This means there are multiple factors to consider when designing for the best user experience.

Interaction

Source: https://uploadvr.com/the-lab-vive-vr-review/

The virtual reality software should be able to track the user’s precise head and eye movement. They should be designed to have a 360-degree view in order to provide a highly interactive experience. The view should constantly change depending on the user’s movement and provide immediate feedback. That’s how it gets realistic. If the screen is limited, there will only be limitations in the experience. The user should be able to interact with the virtual world in every possible way. The biggest challenge designers have is providing navigations. Since virtual reality has no endpoints, it’s difficult to place any navigation for the user. Designers have to experiment depending on the software they are creating. There are a few factors that do not exist today such as touch, taste and smell, which we hope to come soon!

Comfort

Source: http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/137058-sony-playstation-vr-release-date-price-specs-and-everything-you-need-to-know

One of the most important quality is to ensure comfort throughout the experience. It is critical to allow users to have complete control of their movement, not to mention the comfort of the device. Limitation in movement would defeat the purpose in the experience. Another major problem with virtual reality is motion sickness. If a user experiences sudden changes in movement or were to use the device all day, there is a chance they won’t be able to use it anymore due their discomfort. Brightness changes, velocity mismatches, effective head and eye tracking are very important. (Anderson, S. 2016) It is hard to keep the users safe. They are in the virtual world and they are not aware of the surroundings in the real world. It is best if the users can use the virtual reality device in a controlled environment, for example if used at home they should be monitored by an adult.

Text and image scale

Source: https://www.wareable.com/vr/best-samsung-gear-vr-apps-the-games-demos-and-experiences-to-download-first-816

Attention to detail is critical when it comes to the real experience. The way a user perceives the world is what they see. The images and texts should depict the real world with clear texts and high quality images. Designers need to consider the perspective users would look at, otherwise they might end up straining the user’s eyes. There are comfortable viewing zones in different range of motion. Designers would have to figure out the angle of view users would be looking at and design the images accordingly.

Sound

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vs65f

What if there is no sound? We hear a lot of things in the real world, which means the virtual world needs to do the same. By applying 3D audio effects, the users will know which direction the sound is coming from and move accordingly. There is a technique called “binaural sound” which is a technique that tricks the brain into believing the sound comes from different locations. (Staff, C. B. 2016). This helpful technique produces real sounds that depict the real world by surrounding the user with what they need to hear.

Conclusion

There are so many things to consider when it comes to designing a virtual reality software. Designing for anything is easier said than done. Since virtual reality is a 3D experience that depict the real world, much attention to detail is needed. There is still a long way to go. I feel like until the five senses are integrated into the experience, we cannot say it depicts the real world just yet.

References

  • Anderson, S. (2016, April 14). You’re the center of the universe: A UX guide to designing virtual reality experiences. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://www.dtelepathy.com/blog/philosophy/ux-guide-designing-virtual-reality-experiences
  • Staff, C. B. (2016, March 16). The UX of VR. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from http://www.creativebloq.com/ux/the-user-experience-of-virtual-reality-31619635
  • (2017, August 07). How VR Is Changing UX: From Prototyping To Device Design. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://uxplanet.org/how-vr-is-changing-ux-from-prototyping-to-device-design-a75e6b45e5f8
  • Hudelson, B. (2017, May 16). Designing for VR | A Beginners Guide – Prototypr. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://blog.prototypr.io/designing-for-vr-a-beginners-guide-d2fe37902146
  • (2016, May 08). Design Practices in Virtual Reality – uxdesign.cc. Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://uxdesign.cc/design-practices-in-virtual-reality-f900f5935826

Design Critique: Netflix (Desktop App)

Fig 1.1 – Before signing into Netflix

Netflix is a major streaming service that allows users to watch TV shows, movies, animations and more. It has so much entertainment that you can never say, there is nothing to watch. In order to use Netflix, the new user could start with a one month free trial (which they can cancel anytime) or subscribe by paying monthly. The app itself is free, which is available in mobile, tablet and desktop versions.

The Netflix library of shows is huge, which ranges from movies to major TV shows like: Friends, Arrow, Grey’s Anatomy, documentaries, animations, stand up comedies and a lot of Netflix original series. One of the best things about Netflix is that they have a download feature, where you are able to download shows via WiFi and watch it without data. It’s a very useful feature if you want to watch something for example on a subway, where there is no data. I personally love this streaming service in particular because my favorite shows are all in one place.

Main Features: Human Centered and Activity Centered Design

The Netflix app is pretty straight forward and it does a great job at using Norman’s concept of human-centered and activity-centered design. The concept of human-centered design is shown in their “My List” feature. For this feature, a user is allowed to create a fully personalized show list just for them. They also do a great job at using Norman’s concept of activity-centered design. This is shown in their  “Top Picks” and “Popular on Netflix” features. These two features collect data from its mass users and present shows to all users based on popularity of each show.

Main page: Good Discoverability and Understandability

Fig 1.2 – Displays what the user needs to see and the three icons

Netflix has a great design. The main page only shows what is necessary and everything is clean and minimalistic. The user can easily discover the three icons on top, as shown in Fig 1.2: navigation (left), search (right) and more (right). When the user clicks on either of them, it will look like the Fig 1.3. It is clear and understandable that the user has to click on the icon to get any feedback and know what’s there. A minor suggestion for better experience would be to have a signifier when the mouse hovers onto the icon. The pointer could change into a hand pointer to signify the fact that the icons can be clicked.

Fig 1.3 – Shows what each icon does

Searching: Good Constraints and Feedback

Fig 1.4 – Searching for shows

The search bar allows the user to search for a specific show they want to watch instead of going through a massive list. Netflix does a great job using constraints when searching for specific shows by using keywords or the name of the show. When the user types in each letter, it gives them immediate feedback by displaying shows significant to that keyword.  An example is shown in Fig 1.4, the key word “friends” will display shows that are significant to that word and will give more suggestions related to that keyword. Not only does it give the user images, but it also gives them a list of suggestions on the right. Personally I feel that the suggestion list on the right is unnecessary because the images shown to the left are equivalent to the list displayed on the right. Users love images more than words, therefore I believe excluding the list would be better and suggest adding more images pertaining to the keyword.

Watching Shows: Good Signifiers

Fig 1.5 – Watching a show

When the user decides to click on a movie to watch, a sub-screen will pop up as shown in Fig 1.5. This will allow the user to read a brief about the movie before deciding to watch the movie. If the user is interested, they can go ahead and click on the play button which clearly signifies that the movie is playable and they can watch it when clicked. If the user decides to watch it later, there is an icon labeled “My List,” where the user can add it to their list to watch later. They can also rate the movie after watching. Below the brief of the show, there are suggestions of shows that are similar to the show that the user is interested in. Netflix does a great job in suggesting shows everywhere.

Overall, I find that Netflix is a very user friendly app and it is easily understandable. I use it on a daily bases and it has been great for me. After using this app for so long, it’s basically second nature and I click on the Netflix app when I turn on my computer. I believe minor changes may be needed for the best experience, but after reading Norman’s design guide, it’s clear that the Netflix app makes great use of Norman’s principles.