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Augmented Reality UX Design: Best Practices for AR Apps

Read Time: 4 minutes

These days, augmented reality (AR) is everywhere. AR offers consumers and professionals new ways of connecting and experiencing the world, as well as providing business solutions in a variety of industries. AR works by of overlaying digital content on top of the real world environment by way of a mobile device. For example, retail businesses are finding success with AR apps that allow consumers to try on clothes digitally without ever leaving their home.

Augmented reality apps follow a series of user experience design principles that are mostly consistent, although there are still some decisions you need to make depending on the industry, style and goal of your application. So, what should you keep in mind when considering the augmented reality UX design for your app?

Consider the Environment

One of the biggest challenges of the UX design in an AR application is determining the environment you’re aiming for. After all, an app that creates digital plans for a construction site will have different environmental requirements than an app that adds a virtual coat of paint to the walls in a home. Some apps even interact with the user’s entire body, such as a retail app that allows you to virtually try on clothes. Other AR apps are meant to be used in public spaces, such as Pokemon GO or a photography app that adds filters.

As such, thorough user testing is necessary in order to predict how different environmental factors will affect the user experience. Environmental factors to consider when developing an AR app include the user’s vantage point, colors, sizes of objects, lighting and shadows, moving objects, living beings and walls.

Having a clear idea of the environment you wish your AR app to interact with will serve as the foundation of your app. Then once you have a firm idea of the setting you’d like your app to exist in, you can add its interactions and functionalities.

Establish Strong Interactions

After creating the environment, decide how you want users to interact with the content. With an AR app, these interactions will transpire through the camera of a mobile device, which will display media content and 3D objects. Animated media, which are images and videos that you can add to the real world through your mobile device’s screen, are also common. Plus, you can also integrate touch interactions if the user needs to hone into a specific part of the environment, while voice commands can direct the app towards particular functionalities.

The way users interact with the various elements of an AR application is determined by the device, platform and operating system you’re developing for. Creating a hybrid application that can work on multiple platforms may be a smart move in order to expand the size of your user base.

Interactions should also be determined by the way you’re expecting people to hold their devices when engaged with your AR app. For instance, a construction app geared at creating the plans for a multi-floor building would work best from a vertical vantage point, as users will want to see the layout of their ideas from the bottom up.

The user interface (UI) is essential to a strong UX, so make sure touch commands can be done in a place that’s easy to reach. The interactions of your AR app are the foundation of your application, so be sure the features and functionalities are engaging and intuitive to use.

Add Useful Cues

Cues are a key part of any strong UX experience, as they offer direction for users. Visual cues also help show users any off-screen elements such as buttons you can hover over for additional features. For AR apps, cues should be able to monitor particular facial gestures and body movements or move with nature or objects in a seamless and effective manner.

Audio cues are useful, too, allowing users to command the app to do something just by speaking. Similarly, you can create an app that recognizes specific sounds that can prompt it to add a feature. For instance, a safari app can help you determine what animal you’re looking at, not only through its physical appearance but also by the sounds it makes.

Cues add to the overall user experience of your app by guiding users along their digital journey. At the same time, cues can hide or reveal certain features when necessary.

Implement Color and Text

Don’t forget to put thought into your color scheme and the fonts you use when identifying certain objects or measurements. Consider the environmental context, the culture of your users, and the psychological effects of certain colors. Then, select colors and words your users will understand. For example, green often means go, red means stop, and blue is soothing while yellow is an energetic color.

For text, make sure it is relatively large and easy to read, but not overpowering. Choose a font that works well with your color scheme and environment. Use text sparingly, as you don’t want to overwhelm your user with too much text or hurt their eyes with light text on a light background.

The Goal of Augmented Reality UX Design

Ultimately, you’re trying to create an AR app with a minimal, yet rich enough design that enhances the user experience without detracting from it. Colors, lighting, shadows and text are all factors to consider once you’ve developed functionalities for the appropriate environment. Your goal should be to improve the lives of your users, whether by providing entertainment or making their jobs easier, in a smooth and intuitive fashion.

If you’re interested in developing an augmented reality mobile app, you will need a developer that specializes in this cutting-edge technology. That’s precisely what you’ll find with 7T, as we specialize in augmented reality app design and development, along with other emerging technologies, including virtual reality, artificial intelligence, blockchain and natural language processing.

7T has headquarters in Dallas, but we also work with clients in Austin, Houston, and beyond. To discuss your project, please contact us today.


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Chase Uvodich

Chase Uvodich is the leading UI/UX designer at 7T (SevenTablets, Inc.) Chase has designed several of 7T's most successful apps through his unparalleled understanding of user experience and outstanding creative direction.

Chase holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the Savannah College of Art and Design.


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