Considerations to Follow When Designing a Virtual App
Virtual reality (VR) is something that takes us back to our childhoods; to days spent longing we could jump into our favorite movies, TV shows and video games. In terms of entertainment, VR epitomizes the ultimate storytelling experience by placing us in the middle of the action — we’re no longer outsiders watching through a window, we’re active participants in the thick of it. Along with VR is augmented reality (AR), its newer cousin that transforms the world around you into an enhanced version of itself; one in which the lines between digital and physical blur, and the environment around you is overlaid with a digital interface, and mixed reality (MR), an amalgamation of both that brings out the best of both worlds. All are absolutely wonderful, but today’s discussion revolves around VR, so let’s get back the Virtual App topic on-hand.
Virtual reality isn’t the next big thing; it’s now. As soon as you strap your headset, you’re transported to a world where limits become obsolete. It’s an immersive experience where you enter an alternate reality populated by ones and zeroes, pixels and the imaginary. — Excerpt from Virtual Shopping: The Reality We Face.
Why Design Virtual App: The Growth of Virtual Reality
With the near limitless possibilities attached to VR, it makes sense that it’s one of the fastest growing industries out there. How fast? According to Statista, the market size of virtual reality hardware and software is projected to increase from $2.2 billion in 2017, to more than $19 billion by 2020 — yeah, that fast. If you thought that was a big jump, consider that the total number of active virtual reality users was about 200,000 in 2014, and is forecast to reach 171 million by 2018. In other words, VR is ripe for the taking if you’re looking for a way to get your audience excited about your brand and its content.
To that end, you’re going to need to design a virtual app that immerses your audience in a world of your own making. Thankfully, while die-hard VR fans are wont to choose the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift as their go-to VR platform, the majority of the populous is just as happy with headsets like Google Cardboard, Daydream View and the Samsung Gear VR, which utilize smartphones to transport us into our own respective virtual worlds. The best part is that designing a virtual app for mobile is vastly easier than their higher-end counterparts; so much so that all you have to do is get in touch with your favorite digital marketing agency, tell them what you’re looking for and presto! You open up the avenue for creating virtual reality apps for iPhone, Android and so on.
If, on the other hand, you think that the best VR apps are done in-house, all you have to do is keep the follow considerations in mind and you’ll find yourself with the best virtual reality apps in the market.
Considerations to Follow When Designing a Virtual App
A lot goes into designing a virtual app, but the following considerations will prove to be lifesavers if you’re unsure where to begin and would prefer to keep redesigns to a minimum.
Let’s focus on comfort and usability because, right off the bat, if your users feel uncomfortable or confused using your app they’re going to log out and write it off as a bad experience. For one, you don’t want them straining their body or contorting it in any uncomfortable way — the body has its limits and you need to acknowledge them. Second, in the joy of designing a virtual app you may get ahead of yourself and incorporate too many head motions. Unfortunately, this leads to one of the most commonly discussed (and dreaded) VR topic: simulator sickness.
Like motion sickness, simulator sickness can be attributed to the brain getting its signals mixed up. On the one hand, what you’re seeing tells it that that you’re moving around. On the other, your body is telling it the exact opposite; that it’s not moving but actually sitting in place. In other words, when what you’re actually feeling doesn’t correspond with what your brain thinks you should be feeling.
Simulator sickness, along with other usability issues like discomfort, are to be avoided at all costs, so make sure to do the following as you design your virtual app.
Things To Do When Designing a Virtual App
- Keep your users focused: Because VR users are so close to the screens, it’s imperative for your users to maintain focus throughout the whole experience. To this end, make sure that objects aren’t too close or far, otherwise they’ll have to strain their eyes.
- Keep a high frame rate: Also because of the user’s closeness to the screens, low frame rates tend to make them feel nauseous and uncomfortable, so opt for high frame rates that create seamless experiences.
- Keep your users grounded: VR experiences are great because you can take your users to completely different worlds and environments, but this doesn’t mean letting them wander away. For example, keeping them grounded with a fixed object will help their brain reconcile what they’re seeing versus feeling, minimizing the chances of simulator sickness.
- Keep accelerations to a minimum: While accelerations are a must for some VR apps, such as instances in which users may be launched from a ship, roller coaster, etc., abrupt accelerations or decelerations can distort surroundings and place too much stress on the eyes and brain as they try to focus on what’s happening.
When it comes to virtual reality applications, more so than other, non-VR apps, making a great first impression is of utmost importance because the VR we have now is still relatively new and users are hesitant on its use. If they feel any sort of discomfort, whether it’s from awkwardly bending their neck or the dreaded simulator sickness, chances are good that they won’t be coming back. Do your best to make their experiences as fun, comfortable and entertaining as possible and you’ll do better than fine.
Best of luck!
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