AR and VR technology can immerse users in any virtual environment. This can range from an exhibition or retail space, to test driving a new car. All within a cost-effective manner. By virtually transporting participants into environments, researchers can capture emotional and behavioral insights. These elements are sometimes lost in focus groups, where consumers can also struggle to unpack their own non-conscious behavioral traits. However, market research can’t simply just ‘do’ AR/VR. There’re some general design considerations we must acknowledge first.
AR/VR’s multiple facets
AR/VR consists of several factors. These include 3D modeling, 2D images, programming, animation, sound, physical environments, and virtual environments. These are all design disciplines in their own right. They all need to come together to form an immersive AR/VR environment. Resultantly, the skillsets used to design an AR/VR research environment need to cover all these disciplines.
When designing for AR/VR it’s important to incorporate additional features such as motion, images, sound and haptic perception (the process of recognizing objects through touch e.g. an iPhone vibration) combined with 3D environments. However, to make environments truly believable immersive factors such as temperature and smell need to be considered – e.g. the smell of leather in an AR/VR car environment.
AR/VR designs must be intuitive by considering what function they’re going to be used for. We need to ask ourselves questions such as: would the user need to pick up an object in an AR/VR world or simply look at it?
Interactions should match what people intend to do in reality. If a product needs to be picked up, 3D modeling is required to simulate this. Decisions also must be made regarding whether to remove outside world interference or not – e.g. background noise. These interferences should reflect how users interact with products and visuals in real life.
A benefit of AR/VR is the ability to allow movement. This means users can freely move about and discover an alternate world. However, AR/VR designs must set boundaries within their environments. These boundaries should ensure it isn’t possible to leave a physical or virtual testing zone. This will prevent injury in both physical or virtual worlds. But there’s more to AR/VR design than these general considerations. Specific considerations exist for designing AR/VR environments for shopping/packaging and communications testing (two common AR/VR uses in market research).
shopping/packaging testing design considerations
AR/VR helps researchers immerse participants in virtual shopping spaces to test packaging designs and placements. In these environments, participants can pick products up and down. This provides a realistic, yet virtual, experience. When designing for shopping/packaging testing, interaction with objects and test products are the key factors. However, using visuals and sound, we need to ensure that users’ natural movements are replicated as best as possible. For example:
- If users’ arms have a 70cm reach, it’s vital to place AR/VR products within this zone to make virtual products reachable. Additionally, shelf size and perspective-to-distance ratios must be accurate to recreate reality
- 3D modeling on packages must be the highest quality possible. A poor render or an awkward corner/curve on a product will change user perception and effect results
In AR/VR shopping environments, communications on displays and fixtures can also be tested. Digitally fixing and altering displays and fixtures helps test multiple designs and messages, quickly and cost efficiently. But these efficiencies are balanced out with highly detailed design considerations:
- To aid depth perceptions, images and text must be as detailed as possible. The notorious last-minute injection of stimulus before a focus group can’t be replicated when using AR/VR research methods
- Text and images must be eye-catching and participants must be comfortable focusing between distances of 0.5–20 meters (how one would view communication in reality)
The benefits of AR/VR to market research are well-known. But the design considerations mentioned here are less discussed. If market research wants to maximize the potential of AR/VR, these design considerations – amongst others – must be acknowledged and acted upon. next month…
In next month’s Monthly Dose of Design we will look at Visual Storytelling.
By Emma Galvin, Creative Executive & Nicholas Lee, Senior Creative Executive