A big difference between a lousy app and a great one is the user experience (how a user perceives the ease of use and efficiency of your product, system or service). This is not different for an AR app. You might have a killer app idea, but if your UX doesn’t guide your user through the idea, they might not grasp the entire concept. They’ll lose interest and it could make it a lot harder for you to tell the same story in a second app that did implement a good UX.
We are working hard to figure out what a good UX for an AR app could look like. If everyone in the AR community keeps the goal of creating better UXs for AR in the back of their minds, we’ll learn from each other and reach this goal much faster. After months of research, we learned that these are some good pointers for designing an AR app:
Design out of the phone
Let’s start with an obvious one that people still tend to forget: AR exists out of the phone, so design out of it. Don’t be attached to the phone frame. Envision how the user will walk around in the real world to experience your new layer on top of it. How can you give them the feeling they are interacting with objects instead of tapping on a glorified button?
A great example to demonstrate this is the AR drink coaster created by Vuforia. The complete UX is in the physical world. You only use your mobile phone to view how the real and digital world are connected.
Get users off their asses
As a UX designer for AR apps you should make designs that gets users off their asses. This is the best and most immersive way to experience AR.
Guide them into this transition of transporting humans together with their digitization back into the world. The world is ready to receive its digital layer and have people play in it.
Raiz Digital Crafts made it a possibility to go outdoors and experience Porte Saint-Denis, the beautiful monument original located in Paris on our own town square.
The wow-effect comes from making it lifelike. While a downsized model to watch from your couch might have been convenient, We believe this is the way to go.
AR as a feature
A lot of people have heard about AR but are still new to it, so it’s important to introduce it in a nonintrusive way. Meanwhile they are familiar with your current app you’ve worked so hard on to satisfy all their needs. Asking the user to install another one to try out your new cutting edge AR technology might not work. So why not introduce AR as a feature? Your users update your app and suddenly they get a friendly notification asking if they are open to try the new feature that works seamlessly with the existing ones.
Google really understands this concept and doesn’t even call their AR feature augmented reality. It’s an option under their camera translation feature called “Instant translation”. When this function is activated, text on the camera instantly gets transformed into your desired language as if the text was written in that language.
AR technology relies on information about your surroundings: your location, objects, lighting, etc… Gather this information before starting the experience is referred to as AR initialisation or onboarding. It is key to make this step smoothly or seemingly invisible.
We too love to dive right into the experience when we develop our app, so this example is coming from our internal wayfinding app during early stages. Notice how it only takes seconds to initialize your location.
Get to the expectation
Remove the seperation line between the two worlds. We have been interacting with the world for many years, so how certain objects react are programmed in our brain. When we interact with objects in AR, we have a certain expectation of what will happen next. The closer you get to that expectation, the better your design is. An AR ball bouncing from a table onto the ground is a great example. Connect the dots between user, digital and world.
While this is still extremely hard to accomplish in AR, there are already some solid solutions. Like in the example below you can see how computer vision is used to scan your surroundings and use that information to create virtual versions of the objects so the augmented content can react more like the user would expect
Working with wearables
AR gets a huge boost when we use wearables like the Hololens or Magic Leap. We suddenly have our both hands free and they are recognized by the glasses. It really gives a kick when you can grab one of these virtual objects instead of clicking and dragging them over your mobile screen. The AR layer is always in front of our eyes. So use this to guide your players’ vision to a certain direction.
In this “Dodge” AR Developer Sample you really see everything coming together. The Virtual layer exists in different places in the real world. Objects react with your environment and your own hands, and the user is walking around in the experience. The same application could be made for mobile, but it wouldn’t have the same user experience
AR is brand new and we love figuring out what the impact of AR can be on our world. We are excited and eager to dive deep into this technology and bring the most thrilling features of Augmented Reality to the surface. Want to learn more? Take a look at our Roadmap to AR!