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What You Should Know About VR

By | user experience, user interface | No Comments

In the last few years, we’ve witnessed an explosion in virtual reality (VR) devices and apps for them. VR is emerging as a new medium with the potential of having as strong an impact as radio or television did in the past century. According to the Heather Bellini of Goldman Sachs:
“We expect virtual and augmented reality to become an $80 billion market by 2025, roughly the size of the desktop PC market today”

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift is the first high-end virtual reality headset sold on the retail market.

With the increasing popularity of VR, a design is evolving to incorporate its requirements and new capabilities.

Where Can We Use VR

VR is giving birth to an entirely new arena for entertainment, education, collaboration, communication and marketing. The following are some general categories that will merge with VR:

Gaming

All types of entertainment activities can be amplified with the integration of VR. VR makes it possible to put your users into a 100% designed space with predetermined tasks while giving the user total control of moving, exploring and learning within this space.
VR for gaming

Learning

VR can have tremendous implications for education — education can be both more engaging and effective. VR can be used for educational classes, labs and demonstrations. To make education experience truly immersive, designers should consider how users may interact with objects.

VR for learning
Microsoft Hololens for medical education

Training

Using VR, training simulations for professionals like drivers, pilots, doctors and police officers can become more accurate, complex and cost-effective.

VR for training
Image credit: Wareable

Big companies like Toyota see the educational potential of VR. The latest training simulator from Toyota – TeenDrive365 system – is focussed on teaching new drivers about the risks associated with distracted driving.

VR for training
Toyota driving simulator.The driver is in a fully immersive virtual environment – and that includes passengers, traffic, buildings and roadway obstacles.

Prototyping

VR can greatly enhance prototyping and testing phases for engineers, with all types of projects from a handstick design to new car designs.

VR for training
The hologram and the object on the screen are synchronized and this makes spatial application part of the production pipeline, not just an isolated island. Image credit: Solidsmack

Communication

Communicating will drastically change with the help of VR. VR makes it possible to create a brand new experience for video conferencing services, such as Skype.

VR for communication
Remote collaboration using avatars.

Shopping

VR makes it possible to blend the online and offline shopping together. Instead of looking at a 2D image of an object online, shoppers in VR will have the ability to pick up an object and look at it in detail. Alibaba Group, Asia’s biggest e-commerce company, divided into virtual reality later last year.

VR for training
Alibaba’s VR shopping. Buy+ technology allows customers to browse 3D images of products and make real-time payment in a virtual mall as if they were shopping in the real store.

Creating VR Experience

Creating a VR experience is much more complex than traditional 2D experiences, which presents designers with a whole new set of challenges. There are currently 4 core considerations for the design of virtual reality experiences:

1. Make Sure Users Don’t Get Motion Sickness

The most important quality to creating any successful UX design is ensuring that users are comfortable throughout the experience. This is especially true in the context of VR experience. Motion sickness (when physical and visual motion cues give a user adverse information) is one of the most common problems of VR experiences. Humans evolved to be very sensitive to vestibular ocular disparities (disparity between the movement and what we’re seeing). So reducing motion sickness is very important for VR systems. The keys to preventing users from getting motion sick while using VR are

  • Always maintain head tracking. VR software should constantly track the user’s head and eye movements, allowing the images to change with every new perspective.
  • Prevent performance degradation. If the system freezes even for a split second that’s going to trigger a lot of motion sickness.

2. Develop Easy-To-Use Controls And Menus

Same as for traditional UI interfaces navigational menus and other controls should be easily accessible and user-friendly. Unfortunately, there’s no universally accepted way to designing menus for VR interfaces. This is a challenge that designers are still working on. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t transfer existing (2D) practices to 3D. It’s absolutely possible to place the menus on the user’s VR hands. One of such menu interfaces is Hovercast. All menu actions – including navigation between levels – are controlled by simple hand movements and reliable gestures.

VR navigation menu
Hovercast is 2D menu interface for VR environment. Hovercast radiates from the palm of your hand and you can interact with menu items using the index finger of your opposite hand.

3. Ensure Text Is Readable

All text elements should be clear and easily legible, preventing eye strain. The resolution of the VR headset is pretty bad. Because of the display’s resolution, all UI elements in VR will look pixelated. This means that text will be difficult to read. But you can avoid this by using big text blocks.

VR text
Consider the readability for different text section in this VR game. Instructions are almost unreadable. Image credit: Mozilla

4. Use Sound To Create Immersive Experience

As designers, we often don’t think about sound and audio. When we do that we miss an opportunity to communicate more information through a different set of senses. When we have audio sources attached to the objects we create much more realistic environment — if you’re telling a brain that it can see the object and it can hear the object then the object must be real. Try to build a mental image of the environment via sound:

  • Introducing the user to the environment via soundscapes. The audio can be used to give the user the illusion of being in the middle of a particular environment.
  • Guiding the user with sound. By applying positional audio and 3D audio effects to VR, the user will know the direction in which certain sounds originated in relation to where they are.
VR sound
Music and high-quality sound effects are a pivotal feature to encourage experience immersion. Image credit: Google

Conclusion

The possibilities for VR are endless. Soon, all types of companies will be seeking to extend their brand presences into this space. I hope I’ve made the VR space a bit less scary with this article and inspired you to start designing for VR your project.

Agile and Lean UX

By | Agile, user experience | No Comments

The User Experience Design field is filled with an exciting amalgamation of key terms, buzz words, and terminologies – UX, IA, CX, UCD, IxD, agile UX, lean UX, strategic UX, guerrilla research, emotional design etc.

In fact, there are so many of these curious acronyms and phrases that it can be easy to get confused.

The reality is that some of these terms distinguish essential processes, so they are important to know. Then, on the other hand, some are just industry buzz words or phrases designed to say something about the people who invented them.

Agile UX vs. Lean UX

Agile UX

The appearance of ‘agile UX’ occurred shortly after the emergence of ‘lean UX’ and plenty of designers (even the experts) got the two mixed up for a while. The difficulty is that both phrases indicate a robust relationship of design within the overarching process of product development. Both agile and lean UX are concerned with speeding up designs. They both match the diverse perspective of contemporary UX design resources. Nevertheless, it is important to distinguish the two as well. Within common or garden tech discussions, most experts use the terms interchangeably, but are they the same thing?

The Emergence of Lean UX

Lean UX

Unlike agile UX methods, the lean counterpart is derived from start-up industries.

The lean UX definition states that the primary emphasis is on helping companies deliver products as fast as possible – sales have to mount up fast if a very young venture is to grow and prosper.

To achieve this, data has to be collected and function as the foundation for a series of iterations of the product.

The objective is to create a minimum ‘workable’ product and get it out to customers as fast as possible.

The steps involved ordinarily include pushing the earliest iteration out very quickly indeed, in order to determine whether there is a demand for it. Following this, actions are taken to move the product towards a much more rounded and comprehensive iteration.

The standard learn development framework assesses projects during the entire development operation. It emphasizes perpetual measurements and consistent learning cycles (create-measure-observe).

Following Lean Operations

Software development process

The first stage of the lean operation is always a theory – in other words, you have to state what you expect will happen.

Then, the minimum viable product is built as a way to assess the legitimacy of the theory. Thirdly, a test is carried out on this product and the theory is either confirmed or rejected.

The fourth stage is gathering feedback from users via UX research methods. After this, the stages are either carried out again or, if necessary, a new theory is generated and the stages are restarted.

Agile Development Techniques

agile

The value of user experience is broadly realized by pretty much all development sectors. However, the industry based acceptance of agile UX standards has been a little more sluggish.

It is consistently increasing though, despite the fact that the quick fire and loose perspective of agile development poses problems for development experts within large scale companies.

This is because it commonly exists in opposition to the conventional techniques already in use; including those inherent within UX design rotations.

Nevertheless, the growing acceptance of agile development is based in the very creation of software.

Historically, design has not always been as highly regarded as it is now and software suffered the most at the hands of this disregard.

In fact, very little focus was ever afforded to the end user – software creation was only concerned with providing outcomes, even if they turned out to be unattractive or impractical.

Agile methodology

The typical agile development expert believes that up front scheduling can be out to one side and, probably, just handled as the work goes on.

Yet, even for agile UX methods, it is essential to have a clear insight into the objectives and needs of a project, both in terms of imminent launch and future ambitions (though these may fluctuate over time).

Plus, UX should also be made an important aspect of functional planning. The expert has to be aware of its relationship to the market, be able to generate high level usage prospects, and fully understand the inherent corporate entity forms. If possible, they should also carry out research among prospective users.

 

Agile followers and standards:

– Individuals and communications before operations and resources

– Viable software before detailed documentation

– Client interactions before contract discussions

– Reacting to alterations before adhering to schedules

 

Ultimately, lean UX needs to be an adaptable operation. My recommendation is close in nature to the one I would offer when building a minimum workable product; implement the smallest number of resources needed to secure the pivot or persevere point.

 

The following are resources are useful:

– Conditional personas (correct dimensions)

– Persona map

– Presumptions (with the most hazardous marked)

– Design studio

– Written prototypes (initial phases)

– Digital prototypes (HTML is ideal)

– Guerrilla design analysis (usability tests)

– Colocation where possible

Making the Right Choice for You

Lean and Agile UX standards

Essentially, agile and lean UX are two different perspectives on the modified design process, tailored to match the way in which customers and users want their products and services to be provided. The lean agile UX process offers two sides of the same design coin, so to speak.

Whilst the words are, commonly, used interchangeably, they end in slightly different ways. For instance, agile UX creates a more refined result, but lean UX creates a series of product iterations which gradually reach a refined result.

Ultimately, agile and lean UX have the same end result, but they reach it via different processes.

To pick the right option for your internet projects, you need to work out which is the most suited to the desired final outcome.

If you have the time and resources to run through multiple iterations (for example, the project is only a side or ‘add on’ venture), opt for lean UX. If you feel like the project requires an ‘instantly’ refined outcome, opt for agile UX methods.

Designing a Great Onboarding Experience

By | onboarding, user experience | No Comments

If you’re running a new (or not so successful) business, you probably know that attracting new customers is your biggest challenge. In order to deal with it, you need to follow emerging trends; and to employ modern tools and methods which empower your users to use content in an efficient manner.

Onboarding is a process of transforming newly registered users into loyal customers. This process consists of your brand’s values, product’s features; and the guidelines you provide to your users. It is not rare for the overall success of your app to depend solemnly on great onboarding design.

 

UX

 

Well-executed onboarding can help you provide better experience; lower your maintenance costs; and increase your profit. Furthermore, onboarding is a process which helps users to familiarize with your product; and to navigate the app in an intuitive manner. It is essential to provide them clear directions and to inspire them to engage as much as possible.

 

Onboarding’s Ultimate Objective

 

AB Testing

 

The main purpose of the onboarding procedure is to create a wonderful first impression, providing all essential information in almost no time. Such efficiency will convince users to spend more time on the app; and to explore whatever is offered to their attention.

 

Best onboarding experience has the purpose of making people feel comfortable on your app. You also need to present your product in an easily acceptable way, which will use almost no time to create necessity and urgency for them to buy it.

 

ui

 

Why is this so important? Because it assures you that even if users leave without a purchase, they will eventually come back! The decision of signing up or making a purchase is a difficult decision even on the simplest apps. Trust is the most expensive gift users could give to you, so make sure to convince them you deserve it.

Many designers fail to comply with this requirement, as they consider onboarding to be just a breakthrough step for accessing the rest of the content. Sometimes, it means they are destroying the connection with the users; and they send them away even before explaining the benefits of that app.

 

Onboarding – Definition and Importance

 

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Even if most of the brands appreciate the importance of attracting users, they make the mistake of thinking their work is done once users are on board. If you ask us, that’s just the beginning-you have to help users navigate your site; and you have to make it easy to use. At the beginning, it is essential to support users and to give them the attention they deserve.

Take a second and think about yourself as a user-wouldn’t you feel absolutely lost and confused on an app which doesn’t instruct you what to do?

 

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Remember that there will be users who heard about your app; or found a link which redirected them to it, and they are arriving with faith and expectations. As a welcoming host, you have the duty of ‘shaking their hand’ and ‘walking’ them through your website/app. Consider onboarding as the first encounter with your user-you need to do your best to appear charming and interesting. Remember you’ll have nothing more than a couple of seconds to send a powerful message which can make users like you.

 

Why is the onboarding process even necessary?

 

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Let us clarify your doubts on whether you need an onboarding process or not: Imagine you’re launching a website/app which has different performance that the ones your users experienced before. It is not an uncommon situation-you may be introducing a completely new product and you’ll need ‘hidden items’ to make it more interesting.

 

 

The Process Itself

 

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Have in mind there will be no second chance to design a perfect onboard experience-the process happens only once, right after users decide to engage and to explore the content of the app. Therefore, onboarding is a designer’s unique opportunity to orchestrate an introduction which can inform users, and entertain them at the same time. With a good onboarding process, even the most complicated products can seem attractive.

Another important benefit is the temporary ‘hiding’ of the product’s real value-price comes only after a user is truly engaged, and he believes your product is absolutely necessary to satisfy his needs.

 

ui pattern

 

He will most probably look at different forums or social networks to examine quality and to compare price, but what will count is the urgency and necessity you’ve created from the very first moment. As simple as it sounds, your success will depend only upon the easiness and speed of your onboarding process.

Welcome your users into a secure environment, totally consistent with common perceptions and expectations. Failing to do that would disappoint them and you would probably never restore their confidence.

 

UI

 

In addition, make sure you replicate the success of your onboard design on all other pages and elements-you need to preserve the same trust levels until the very end of your users’ session. Examine users’ behavior in every phase of their visit and show them you’re ready to respond to all of their requests. However, don’t exaggerate because you would seem pushy or heavy-handed. Your directions could be welcomed in certain cases, but there will also be occasions where users want to explore independently, without your interference.

Decided to create a great onboarding process? Focus on the following goals:

 

  • Remember that you have only one chance to produce excellent onboarding experience, so make it as easy and entertaining as you can.
  • Make your product necessary and desired. It is an asset to count on in future, rather than closing every communication once the order is done.
  • Restrict the usage of text; and use actions and indications to show users how to use your products.

 

During onboarding, you’re enabling users to make the most of their experience on your app. We collected a list of recommendable practices you could apply, depending on the type of product/s you’re offering.

 

  1. Avoid tricky concepts

What may work perfectly for most apps could have detrimental effects for you. Keep things simple and apply only such concepts that match your style and your needs. If something appears complicated, or causes unnecessary delays, feel absolutely free to remove it.

 

  1. Stay opportunistic

Onboarding is your chance to involve users, and to make the most of your users’ first impression. Use it, and make sure you won’t miss any opportunity in future.

 

  1. The more entertaining, the better

What does a great first encounter mean? It means that users will be ‘in’ for a second one whenever you call them. It also means they’ll share the positive experience with their friends; and they will drive new users to your website or app. How do you achieve that? Make it as entertaining as possible!

 

  1. Inspire action

Even the best-executed among onboarding experiences will be incomplete if it doesn’t inspire action. Challenge your users, but make sure you’ve shown them that exploring your content and reacting to your demands is not a waste of their time.

 

  1. Keep it simple

The clearer, the better. Your onboarding process deserves to be cleared from any clutter and mess; so that users will not be distracted from the product and the benefits you’re trying to explain them.

Try and be creative when you require users to sign up: avoid the classic set of elements (names, last name, address or passwords) and if possible, reduce their number. Sign-up simplicity is something users appreciate, and you have to use it in order to increase your conversion rates.

 

Final Thoughts

 

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There is no standardized rule for designing the perfect onboard process-you need to be creative, easily adaptive to all changes and modifications, and focused on the needs of your business. Looking at outstanding examples is a good idea, but replicating somebody else’s idea will never generate the same results.

The main reason why onboard processes are so important is that they take place at a very critical moment of your users’ experience-it is the very beginning, when you’re supposed to grab their attention and to expose the most important facts and benefits from your brand and your product. Therefore, forget about your own preferences and think about what users are expecting from you.

Don’t lose focus from your users-analyze their behavior and try to predict their reactions to each product/service. The more data you gather, the smoother your onboard flow will become.