Paul Hill by Paul Hill

5 UX Principles for Great Augmented Reality Experience Design

  • AR
  • Augmented Reality
  • Design
  • User Experience

Augmented Reality (AR) is on its way to becoming one of the dominant forms of UI interactions. As such, more and more businesses are looking to invest in Augmented Reality applications, solutions and interfaces for their audiences. To ensure that these new experiences are cohesive and grounded, developers will want to follow UX principles in Augmented Reality design. 

In this post, we’ll cover the core UX principles in AR design to follow, as well as some best practices.

The core UX principles in Augmented Reality design

1. Environment

The environment is at the cornerstone of AR interactions. It’s the “screen equivalent” in Augmented Reality design, forming the backdrop for all user interactions. 

It’s also a dynamic, changing space that will never be the same for two users. There are some key divisions however, that you can use as dividers:

  • Intimate space. This is the space approximately 50cm in front of a person’s body. Face filters occupy the intimate space. 
  • Personal space. Personal space encompasses 1m around the user. This involves virtual objects in the user’s hands and potentially another person standing nearby. 
  • Social space. Social space encompasses 4m around the person and will generally involve objects/surfaces in a room, other people, furniture, etc. 
  • Public space. Public space occupies 7m or more, involves multiple people (even if they’re not directly interacting with the software), and is usually reserved for location-specific experiences (i.e., museum exhibits). 

2. Movement

Movement is the next of the core UX principles in AR design, and it’s another fairly unique one. 

In AR software, the user can move in 3D space. This allows virtual objects to be anchored to 3D objects rather than a typical 2D plane. 

The balancing act with movement in AR is to guide the user from one UI element to the next without choosing where to go for them. This means predicting where they will move and designing the UI path around these predictions. 

3. Onboarding

Next up is one of the more challenging UX principles in Augmented Reality design: onboarding. Onboarding is the process of getting a user familiar with, and educated on, how your AR software works. Since Augmented Reality is so new, you’ll be doing most of the heavy lifting here yourself. 

Many users who will be interacting with your AR app will be having their first-ever Augmented Reality experience. No pressure, eh? 

With this in mind, usability should be a top priority, ahead even of technical proficiency and accuracy. 

4. Interaction

Interaction involves any kind of action a user takes with your software. That includes moving around, tapping the screen, gesturing, placing virtual objects, etc. 

Interaction in augmented reality apps, fortunately, has a lot of overlap with traditional software paradigms. One of the key differences to remember, though, is that UI elements might be very near or very far from the user. The user might also have just one or no hands to interact with the screen with. Accommodating these challenges is a must

5. UI

Last but not least, UI is the physical screen that the user is interacting with. That will most often be a smartphone screen or, in the future, some kind of Augmented Reality headset. 

It’s important to remember that while the digital Augmented Reality environment is more engaging and immersive, it’s the UI environment that will be hosting the actual interactions. The screen is your mouse and keyboard, not the user’s bedroom. Focus on making this experience seamless, and the rest is to follow.

Augmented Reality

Use UX principles in Augmented Reality design to give the structure of your virtual experience

Diving into Augmented Reality development can be a monumental task for developers. There are so many technical aspects to learn that the design elements might seem secondary. AR is already improving worker performance according to Harvard Review.

By keeping these UX principles at the forefront of your Augmented Reality design process, you can give structure and focus to your development process. They’ll guide you as well as your users to the right result. 

For more insights and support when designing an Augmented Reality app, reach out to the experts at Thunk today.