Principles of UX Design for Augmented Reality Mobile Apps

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Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

The world has changed a lot due to advancements and shifts in technology. Augmented Reality (AR) is one such innovation that is offering consumers new ways of experiencing the world. AR works by superimposing interactive virtual images on to people’s view of the real world.

There are many innovative applications of AR in action already, and it is highly likely you have come across them in your everyday life. If you haven’t yet, you are bound to see them soon. AR has a very promising future. Pokémon Go or Snapchat filters are some of the applications of AR that are making the lines of reality thin.

However, shaping the right experience for AR mobile apps is a tough task. It requires an understanding of the principles of UX design for mobile AR apps. Here are some of them.

The User’s Environment

Determining the kind of environment you are targeting forms the foundation of your application. It represents the context in which the user will be experiencing the app. You should think about the following types of AR usage:

  • Public – will the user use their entire body to experience the app?
  • Personal – will the mobile app be used in a public place?
  • Intimate – will the user interact with the application while sitting, standing, or with some minor movements?
  • Private – will the user use the app as a wearable?

Having clear ideas of the context in which the app will be used will help you design AR apps that not only fit the user’s needs but also easy to use in the real world.

Consider Interactive Design

Now that you have determined the user’s environment, think about how they will interact with the app in it. Users interact with the app either through the phone screen window or a headset’s viewfinder. You need to determine the context where ‘touch’ will be the mode of interaction and when to use voice commands or control buttons.

Ensure the UI is easy to understand and use. For instance, you can place the control buttons in the easy to reach areas of a device’s interface. Additionally, to establish a strong interaction design, ensure the user journey map is organized and has a flow.

Enhance the aspects of the AR app that matches the application’s purpose by having the user’s goal in mind. For instance, if an app is used to share a superimposed image, a reticle will be useful.

Furthermore, consider the different sizes of devices used by the users and how they hold their devices while viewing the app. Consider the type of hardware the user will be using to interact with the environment. Research about the trends in interaction design and experiment to find out what works best for you.

Taking all these factors into account will help you to come up with a strong interaction design for your AR mobile app.

Add Visual and Audio Cues

Cues enhance a user’s overall experience. They offer them directions on their digital journey and make the experience as automatic as possible. Hence, if you are considering crafting a UX design for AR apps, don’t overlook visual and audio cues. They are the foundation of strong UX design.

Visual cues, for instance, play a significant role in allowing the users to experience the full potential of an AR app. They show the buttons that harbor additional features and off-screen elements. There are various factors that you should consider while implementing visual cues to your app. They include: the object’s weight, depth maps, material properties, lighting, shadowing, and projections. Other factors such as color theory, opacity, typography, and drop shadows are also valuable when enhancing the UX Design of mobile AR apps.

Similar to visual cues, audio cues are beneficial in making the user notice additional features that are off-screen. They allow them to command the app by speaking to it. Let the user notice all your hard work by adding audio and visual cues that encourage them to explore the entire environment.

Color and Text Matters

Different colors relay a different message to the users. Similar to traffic lights, green in AR means “go,” red means “no” or “stop,” while blue signals calmness.

When creating the UX Design for AR applications think about the context, culture, and psychological effect of the color you want to implement. It should be easy to understand.

Similarly, the text you choose in your AR app design affects its UX. Make the text visible by ensuring it is relatively large, has a smart font, and easy to read. The text should not be overpowering or comprise of lots of text as it is in a novel. Don’t make the user’s eyes bleed by having dark text on dark backgrounds. Instead, use a readable contrast scheme such as a dark text on a light background.

Implement Shadows and Light

The lighting and shadow of your AR will determine if the users get immersed in your app or get bored. Bring an object to life by projecting their shadows.

You also don’t want to distract users from the experience by placing several directional lights. Position the source of light directly over the objects. It will ensure the users are getting a pleasant UX while viewing the mobile app.

Consider User Fatigue While Innovating

Remember your app is supposed to improve people’s lives and not add to their struggles. Don’t scare users away by making the UI hard to figure out. If it is a button, make it look like one.

Use design that users are familiar with such as swipe, pinch, or tap. Don’t place frequently used buttons in hard-to-reach areas of the device. Having a visual exhaustive interface or high cognitive load will tire the user. Additionally, don’t overstimulate them with excessive effects.

The app shouldn’t put the user in any physical or mental discomfort. Any innovation should be done in small doses to ensure they feel comfortable to explore the app to the maximum.

In Conclusion

The AR world is getting popular every day. However, it is still uncharted territory for many developers and designers. By following the principles described here, you will stand a chance to craft a seamless UX design for AR mobile apps that improves the users’ lives. Ensure that the final design is one that if you were the user, you would find exciting, usable, useful, and meaningful. Don’t forget that like any technology, AR is dynamic. Keep up with current trends and give your app users what they have been craving. 

Author’s Bio:

Randolph Bunnell is an experienced copywriter and marketing specialist. He has a deep interest in informational technologies and aims at becoming an expert in this niche. Randolph also has a medical background and enthusiastic about healthcare technologies. He runs Skin Answer blog, where he shares helpful health tips.

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