Anja Stork
Published on under Concept, Design, Usability, User Experience, Vision

Tips for the Design of VR Interfaces

From Anja Stork

Summer holidays for our customers – and for us a good time to explore exciting, new topics. My colleagues Renate, Ralf and I therefore used the quieter days to approach the subject of virtual reality (VR). We researched a useful collection of articles and videos, which I would not like to hide from you:

Design for the Depth of Space

Virtual reality presents completely new challenges for UX designers. With the development of two-dimensional user interfaces, the focus is on the orientation, the fonts and the structure of the content. For VR interfaces, however, there is another component: the depth.

How deep should the user interface be in the virtual space? The user perceives it optimally when they are about three meters away from it. Buttons and all interactive elements, however, are positioned as much as possible within their arm range.

Mike Alger explains the most important principles of screen layout and design in the following video:

VR Interface Design Pre-Visualisation Methods


Follow Head Movements

Many VR applications still pose a problem: The user often feels sick during or after their trip to the virtual world. A common cause is that their head movements are not tracked continuously and rectilinearly.

Therefore, regardless of what is planned in the design, always ensure that at least one element in the scene maintains the head tracking. This gives the objects in the virtual space a fixed position and prevents the user from getting sick during movements. The simple solution to the problem: a crosshair that is placed in the user’s field of view and the marking of interactive objects that the user is currently viewing.

Since head tracking always knows where the user is looking, their view can also be used as a cursor. Thus, the longer-lasting view of a virtual object can trigger passive interactions in the environment and gradually reveal more information about the virtual world.


Display Real Speeds

In contrast to real life, a user in the virtual world does not feel any acceleration or delay. Therefore, it is important to use comfortable and, if possible, constant speeds (1080p + and 60fps +). Movements such as hiking, walking and turning should match reality as much as possible.

Here are some guidelines from Mike Rose:

  • Average walking speed: 1.4 meters / second
  • Average sprint speed: approx. 5.5 meters / second
  • Average speed of half rotation: 1 second


Use Reference Points

Where exactly is up and down here and where am I at all? The user can quickly lose their orientation in a virtual environment. To avoid this, it helps to incorporate many reference points into the field of vision: for example, in the form of a cockpit or a virtual nasal tip.

Using a cockpit simply works because people are used to sitting in the car, for example. In doing so, the car and the surroundings move, but the controls remain still. These and other important aspects are vividly explained in the following video:

Designing for VR: Environments and Interactions


Everyday Life as an Example

In everyday life, we usually move intuitively in our environment – we use doors, windows, stairs and the like without thinking too much about it. Therefore, VR experts recommend integrating GUI elements as intuitively as possible into the 3D world and to orient themselves to interactions from everyday life. The following video shows that we also have our problems with this subject in the real world.

It’s not you. Bad doors are everywhere

It is also important to give feedback on interactions. This can be done through sound effects, visual effects and animations. Haptic feedback, for example, by vibrating the controller, also enables the user of the VR to perceive the surroundings in a tactile way.


Use Spatial Audio

What is happening behind me? Audio plays an extremely important role in virtual reality as it serves both for entertainment purposes and to orient the user. To draw the attention of the user with sound, their position and their field of view should be taken into account. In addition, the distance to the ears and the material density of the objects in the virtual space play an important role.

Audio in the background provides the possibility to communicate the entire scene to the user. For example, they can explore their surroundings without looking around. With the help of “Binaural Sound”, the user can effectively enter his environment.

How this works exactly, you will learn in the following video:

Hear New York City in 3D audio


Wait for the User

No panic! To avoid the user feeling uncomfortable or rushed, the virtual experience should only begin when they are ready. The app should therefore not start automatically or based on a timer, but rather with a starting screen or the like. At the same time, the user signals with a click that they are ready to dive into the VR experience.


Put the User in Control

The user should have the possibility to control his VR experience at all times. Breaks must be scheduled for this. These interrupt the main counting sequence and continue it only when the user’s attention is on the respective interaction elements or main operators.

With the help of Google Spotlight Stories , you can easily try it out yourself.


Make it Beautiful

Virtual reality is a carefully elaborated illusion. The more this illusion affects the user, the more exciting and fun is the VR experience for them. Therefore, it is worth spending a lot of time and effort in the visual elaboration of the elements.

The team of the film “Rain or Shine” showed very much attention to detail. The video for the making-of gives you an insight.

The Making of Rain or Shine
This Post has been published in Concept, Design, Usability, User Experience, Vision.
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