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18 September 2023 - 8 minutes

Beyond the Screen: Exploring Immersive Technologies in UX/UI Design

Learn how AR, VR, and MR are transforming the UX/UI design that we know and love.

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For years, UX/UI designers have been tasked with creating engaging and exciting user experiences, both attracting the user and encouraging them to return to the site again and again. And for a while, this consisted of carefully choosing fonts, colors, images, and other visual site elements; today, however, immersive technologies have expanded the role of UX/UI designers, encouraging them to think outside the box.

Users today, on the other hand, have come to expect interactive and captivating designs that create a mental and emotional bond with the company, encouraging the user to choose them repeatedly over time. And although these interactive features have become the norm over recent years, they are a relatively new development in the field of UX/UI design. 

In this post, we’ll explore these new advancements in UX/UI design, review exactly why UX/UI design is so important, and make some predictions for future developments in the field. 

But before we dive right into the good stuff, let’s review what UX/UI design is, its purpose, and the main responsibilities of UX/UI designers. 

What is UX/UI Design? 

Although they’re typically referred to jointly, UX and UI design are two separate disciplines that convene on some main points; that’s why they’re so frequently grouped together. UX stands for user experience; UI stands for user interface and they work together to ensure the user has the best possible experience on the website. 

UX design

User experience design focuses on how the user will interact and experience a product or design, concentrating on making it as fantastic as possible. UX designers follow lots of guidelines when it comes to brand preferences or accessibility, but they want to make all designs easy to use, logical, and enjoyable. User-centered design became popularized in the ‘90s when the consumer became the center of all designs; after all, if the product is designed for them, the user experience should be catered to them as well. 

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.” - Steve Jobs

The UX design process follows an intuitive path, easily followed by designers who are passionate about creating quality products for their users. Let’s explore the design process for UX designers, shedding some light on how they actually center the user during the entire process. 

  1. Identify: what is the designer tasked with creating and why? Is the current website not attracting customers? Or are there very few users who return to the site? This high-level meeting can help give the project a strong starting point and inspiration for the following steps. 

  2. Understand: with the problem identified, it’s time to research the user and ensure that you fully understand who they are, what motivates them, and what their end goal is. Industry trends and competition analysis can help you design a high-quality plan. 

  3. Plan: with your research in front of you, it’s time to get going! Based on all the information you’ve gathered, begin to plan out your design, creating user personas, wireframes, user stories, and more to guide your project. And with all this information, you can create a rough timeline for the actual design process.

  4. Design: it’s finally time to get to work; it’s time to start designing. Start by sketching out the overall layout of the site, how users will navigate from page to page, and which elements will be present on each page.

  5. Test: with your design completed, it’s time to put it out into the real world and work to receive feedback, see what’s working and what’s not, and what changes and adjustments can be made. 

UI design

User interface (UI) design differs in that it’s the actual practice of designing the aesthetics of a digital product, creating the interface of the app/site. With a focus on the visual elements that users interact with and use to navigate the page like sliding, pulling down, typing, and more, UI design is a crucial part of the design process. 

To create engaging and well-functioning designs, UI designers follow these steps:

  1. Sketching: to begin, it’s best to get some ideas on paper and work from there. UI designers begin by sketching out their thoughts and ideas; this helps outline the general elements that need to be included and get a rough look at how things will appear on the finished site. And because it’s an abstract sketch, it’s easy to move stuff around or rework the design. 

  2. Wireframing: with your basic sketches on paper, wireframing helps you picture how things will look before you actually put them on the site, showing you how the layout will appear and where each element will be. This can help visualize the final product, provide the client with a progress update, and identify any obvious problems early on. 

  3. Designing: with the format outlined properly, you can start adding design elements and see what works and what needs to be changed. This stage is essential for recognizing and fixing any accessibility/response issues and help the entire team see how the design is looking. 

  4. Flowing: with all pages designed, it’s time for a crucial question: how will users navigate from one page to the next? How will they search the site or use drop-down menus? This is where the UI designer’s expertise comes into practice, seeking to create an intuitive and simple process.

  5. Fine tuning: with everything designed and planned, spend some moments on the final details, making sure every element is in high definition and looks exactly as you imagined. During this stage, you can also add more details as you see fit.

You’re an UX/UI design expert now, right?! We thought so! With this knowledge, you’re ready to dive into the immersive technologies that have revolutionized the UX/UI design field. 

Immersive UX/UI Design Technologies 

We’ve seen a huge influx of new technologies in recent years that have completely changed the way we do most things; UX/UI design has also been heavily influenced by the introduction of immersive design technologies that provide an even more thorough and detailed user experience. The three main forms are virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality; these have led the user to feel even more connected to the product, but also forced UX/UI designers to reimagine the way they’ve been working for so long. 

Virtual reality

Virtual reality technologies (VR) have recently skyrocketed in popularity and UX/UI designers have been quick to take advantage of it to provide an even more immersive and interactive user experience. VR creates a digital environment where users can navigate around, taking full advantage of their digital surroundings. Just like with normal UX/UI design, VR technologies need to stick to the same principles of empathy, comfort, hierarchy, consistency, and user-centered design to ensure that it’s well-designed. 

Virtual reality in UX/UI design can: 

  • Create a highly interactive user experience where users can actually see themselves using a product or service, which can help convince them to buy it. 

  • Provide the user with complete control, letting them navigate through the virtual reality environment and choose their path. 

  • Be used for practically anything, letting all UX/UI designers, regardless of their industry, take advantage of this technology. 

When creating their design, however, UX/UI designers need to ensure that they prioritize user comfort (for example, the VR headset must be comfortable), mimic natural human movements and actions, and guarantee accessibility. 

Augmented reality 

Unlike virtual reality, which creates a completely artificial environment for the user, augmented reality (AR) technology combines digital information with the user’s current environment. However, just like the previously mentioned technology, AR can help the user not only picture themselves using the product or service, but also join their surroundings with the product, allowing them to see the product in their home or personal space. 

Augmented reality in UX/UI design can:

  • Let users navigate around their space, seeing what it would be like to have certain elements next to them or in specific locations (imagine seeing what a sofa would look like in your living room before you buy it!).

  • Add extra value to the user experience and let users combine their personal experience with the product offered. 

  • Provide accessibility options for users that would be otherwise excluded from UX/UI technologies.

AR does come with a bit of a learning curve, of course, and not all designs need or will benefit from the introduction of it; make sure you fully evaluate the pros and cons of it before deciding to incorporate augmented reality into your designs. 

Mixed reality 

We can think of mixed reality (XR)  as a combination of the best elements of virtual and augmented reality, combining both a computerized world with your physical surroundings. It sounds like AR, but here’s the key difference: XR allows these two to interact. This technology consists of expertly developed tools that put virtual elements in the real world. 

Mixed reality can absolutely transform the way users interact with products, but UX/UI designers need to take the following into consideration: 

  • As they’re no longer designing for a flat space, they need to take distance and vision into consideration to create a realistic and accessible design. 

  • They have to follow the limitations of the human body; for example, objects far in the distance shouldn’t be perfectly clear, a 360° view shouldn’t be possible, and users should have to be within arm’s reach to pick up or touch an object. 

  • Users must still be able to see and hear things in their physical surroundings to avoid falling or other injuries. 

As you can tell, the future of immersive technologies in UX/UI design is incredibly bright; after all, who wouldn’t want to try on a shirt from your house or see how a picture will look on the wall before buying it? These technologies are relatively new, however, and will require lots of work and developments to ensure they meet all UX/UI design principles. 

If you’re interested in becoming one of the next UX/UI designers to tackle immersive technologies and create even better user experiences, you’re in luck: UX/UI designers that specialize in virtual reality, augmented reality, or mixed reality are predicted to be in high demand in coming years. 

And there’s no better place to get your start than at Ironhack, where you’ll learn the essential foundational knowledge necessary to land you that first job in tech. Our expertly designed curriculum prioritizes the stuff you actually need to know, helping you get started. If you’re interested, don’t hesitate any longer: our part-time and full-time bootcamps are filling up fast! Don’t be left behind. 

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