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The future of AR in web design

Over the years, many experts have argued about the potential impact of mixed realities on web design. The concepts of AR and VR are expected to affect the way we interact with websites on a fundamental level. However, nowadays, the discussions of AR are not just observational. We are already living in an era where mixed-reality interfaces are in everything from Pokémon Go to Snapchat and Instagram filters.

The big question for web designers is how they can create incredible user experiences that stand out in a world with multiple digital realities?

How to effectively incorporate AR

Before we jump to the steps that can help designers enhance their projects with adopting AR, it is worth looking at the benefits of AR implementation. While VR replaces elements of the real world around us with digital components, AR augments it. Therefore, developers and designers need to learn how to succeed in an environment where the real world and the digital one work together.  

The most common AR application on websites is providing solutions for real-time and remote product visualisation. Nike, ASOS and the Vyking are some of the companies that  have adopted AR technology that reinvents the digital shopping experience by enabling their users to try a pair of shoes before they actually buy them.

AR has a crucial role to play in users’ decisions in a world where online shopping is increasing drastically as well as the users’ demand to check how an item of furniture might look in their home or to check how a certain shade of make-up might look on them before they buy the product. In essence , AR can help users to make more informed purchases.

Here are 6 steps of AR that can be used to deliver a remarkable UX:

1. Focus on Real-Time Feedback.

The purpose of AR is to connect the real word with the virtual world and by doing this it provides users with a unique experience filled with real-time feedback that delivers crucial and insightful information.

For example, a GPS app incorporating an AR system can calculate the average time for reaching a destination for a user based on their previous trips. Another great example of AR implementation is the face-mapping solution that helps users determine how a certain make-up product will look on them before purchasing it. MAC cosmetics, Loreal Maybelline and Marry Kay’s – Mirror Me app are only some of the brands that have successfully implemented AR within their apps aiming to simplify the shopping process for their users.

When incorporating AR, designers and developers need to consider how they can provide  real-time information to their users, helping them to make better purchase decisions.

2. Define input and output.

Defining input and output is a common exercise when designing traditional websites and apps but it is even more crucial when designing UX in an AR environment. By doing this you  can determine which specific elements of your interface your users can actively interact with. This will give you a better idea of what elements to augment – for example, you might decide that physical gestures like a handwave or a smile will be essential AR inputs. However, you must consider what input possibilities different devices offer.

Outputs are slightly simpler than inputs – for example you could present a 3D model of a product that your users are interested in. Once you have created that output you need to think about how exactly the users will interact with it – by changing colours, position, or size.

3. Embrace user-friendly performance.

Another great feature of AR is its interactivity. Good AR designs need to be simple and easy to use, otherwise users will just avoid them. According to recent studies, 60% of retailer customers stated that they would like to use more AR when shopping for furniture, but only if the AR app actually works.

When designing AR systems, you should make your technology application as easy to use as possible so that your users will not have a problem using it and will actually want to interact with it.

4. Consider the environment.

In AR and VR applications it is crucial to remember that interfaces are not bound by a physical screen. The viewport is moving with the user and  shifting perspectives in response. The most common AR environments considered by designers are:

  • Public environment – where the user’s entire body plays a role as a controller (e.g., Xbox Kinect or Nintendo Wii).
  • Intimate environment – Usually a desktop environment where the user is seated.
  • Personal environment – AR for mobile devices and tablets (e.g., Pokémon Go).
  • Private environment – completely private spaces where wearable technology is involved (e.g., Google Glass, Neurable or Acesight).

The environment you choose to design for will be critical  to the project outcomes. Don’t forget that spatial considerations should be very carefully made when accounting for how users will interact with objects and elements in a frame.

5. Consider User Fatigue

Another thing you should keep in mind when designing with AR is  user fatigue. People interact with websites and apps in a much more intimate and in-depth way when AR is implemented. When utilising AR technology, you should consider that the entire body of the user is often used as a controller. Hence, you should be careful of exhausting interactions.

High-effort or repetitive interaction could tire out the user both mentally and physically leading to disengagement. Therefore, designers should consider how the user can be over-stimulated with too many interaction elements at once and avoid it. Keep it simple!

6. Recall the essential principles of UX design.

When you are  utilising a relatively new technology it does not mean that designers should abandon all the basic principles of user experience design that they have learnt over the years. Although UX is continuously evolving and changing, it will always keep its fundamentals. For example, designers will always strive to provide their users with the best digital experience in exchange  for the lowest effort on the users’ part. Additionally, designers need to think about how they can make the users as comfortable as possible when interacting with new technology on websites and apps.

Since AR is most commonly associated with the gaming industry, it might be smart to utilise gamification concepts into your AR design, with the aim to make sure your users are having fun interacting with your website or app. A great example of this concept is the Inkhunter app which allows users to try on tattoos using filters similar to the ones on Snapchat. The user experience provided feels comfortable, familiar, and exciting! 

In summary

AR has come a long way over the years. Nowadays, developers have access to simple plug-in tools which allow designers to upload 360-degree videos and other unique web extensions. AR is already widely available on sites and apps of all shapes and sizes. Furthermore, users have more access to ways of unlocking AR’s power through everything from mobile interfaces to wearable technology like headsets.

However, just like all new technology in the web design world, designers need to carefully think how to overcome the challenges in UX that AR can present. Although, AR can provide more information to users in an interactive way and help them make purchasing decisions quicker, it also brings some risks. For example, by adding too many interactive features in  one place you could scare  the user with too much information or tire them off.

In conclusion, web designers should explore all the new tools available to them, but always consider the users that they are designing for. This is the way to make the most of  AR’s functionality and power.

Are you ready to embrace AR?

Designing for AR can be an intimidating concept initially even for experienced designers. However, AR is just another technology that if used correctly can drive better user engagement through interactive UX. If you learn how the latest technologies work and  gather great insights about your users’ needs, you will be astonished at what you could achieve in the AR word.

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