Designing For Augmented Reality (2023)

If you revisit old end-of-year roundup tech trend articles, the ones that predict which technologies will break into the mainstream the upcoming year, you’ll notice two things: 1) most of us are demonstrably bad at predicting the future (myself included), and 2) augmented reality was a ‘hot new tech trend’ in 2018, 2017, and all the way back to 2016.

Augmented reality is not a rising technology anymore. It’s here. You know what it is, you’ve seen it in your everyday life (whether that’s a Snapchat filter or Pokemon Go), and you may even have already been asked to design an application for it. If not, there’s a high chance you will be soon—users of AR technology are expected to hit the billion mark by 2020, and there are currently over 500 AR companies listed on the startup database AngelList.

So how do you design for an application that uses augmented reality? What are the best practices, what obstacles will you face, and most of all, how can you ensure you’re getting the most out of the tech, especially in an ecommerce use case? Let’s dive in.

Designing For Augmented Reality (1)

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(Video) Designing an Augmented Reality scene in Adobe Aero

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Why use augmented reality in ecommerce?

In case you’ve missed it, augmented reality describes the combination of real-life input, stimuli, or environs with computer generated ones. Though it’s often bucketed with virtual reality, VR replaces the analog world completely, while AR augments it, melding the real and the digital to create something new. Again, you’ve almost definitely seen it in recreational or gaming applications, but why use it in ecommerce?

Designing For Augmented Reality (2)

The most common ecommerce application of AR remains remote, real-time product visualization—the ability to try on a pair of shoes without leaving your home, or see how that couch would look in your living room. AR generates a three dimensional model of the product, then overlays it onto your environment in real-time via your phone, tablet, or AR/VR glasses.

This functionality can obviously play a major role in the customer’s purchasing decision, particularly for long-commitment products (like a television set or a painting) or ones that are highly personalized to an individual user (like makeup, nail polish, or even tattoos).

But besides assisting customers in their purchase decisions, AR technology also offers the added benefit of increased customer engagement and brand loyalty. In late 2016, RetailPerceptions surveyed over1,000 shoppers and found that 71 percent would patron a retailer more often if they offered augmented reality, and that 61 percent would prefer a store that offered AR over one that didn’t.

Designing For Augmented Reality (3)

To make a long story short, AR in ecommerce helps shoppers make more informed purchases, boosts customer engagement, and caters to consumers’ wants and expectations. This is all well and good, but how do we design an AR application?

You might also like: Build the Future of Immersive Shopping Experiences—Introducing New Ways to Work with AR/VR.

(Video) Why UX Designers Need To Learn AR (Augmented Reality UX)

AR design guidelines

Designing augmented reality applications can be intimidating to even seasoned UX designers. Many of them balk at the idea of creating an interface with an essentially unlimited, unchained viewport. Whether it’s through your phone, a desktop, or AR glasses, you’re able to move your device to adjust the environment—there’s not really a true analog to that in traditional UI design.

So here’s a broad roadmap, featuring three AR design cornerstones to keep in mind when crafting an augmented reality application.

1. Input and output definition

Though you may have performed a similar exercise when designing for certain traditional UIs, defining the inputs and outputs of the user experience becomes mandatory in the AR environment.

Defining an experience’s inputs and outputs answers the question of what elements a user can and cannot interact with in the interface. It delineates boundaries between the ‘augment’ and the ‘reality’.

You can probably imagine that physical gestures are a common AR input (a swipe of the hand for example, or a change in facial expression), but the device you’re interfacing with will also have its own inputs available to you. For example, if you’re using a mobile phone to see how a certain color of paint looks on the wall, you have access to the tactile buttons, taps, swipes, and other mobile phone inputs.

Outputs are a bit simpler—in an ecommerce application, your output will likely be a three dimensional model of the product, potentially one with a configurable scale, color, orientation, or any combination of the three.

Once you have your inputs and outputs defined, the next step is to assign them functions. How will the user change the color of the product? By voice? Shaking their device? A tap on their mobile phone?

Alexandra Olarnky of Prototypr suggests working through these questions by determining the fidelity of your inputs, or how great the margin of error is when interfacing with it. For example, your mobile phone’s voice recognition is a low fidelity input—Siri often misunderstands our voice commands—but a tactile button on a keyboard or phone has much higher fidelity.

2. Environmental considerations

In both augmented and virtual reality applications, the interface isn’t bound to a physical screen. The viewport moves as the user does, the 3D model shifting its perspective in response. But while there may not be a boundary determined by a screen size, AR apps still have area constraints.

(Video) Product Design Trends 2022: Augmented Reality & The Metaverse Will Change Design Forever

Designing For Augmented Reality (4)

Most AR designers use four different signifiers to describe an AR’s environment: public, social (sometimes called private), personal, and intimate. These descriptors not only signify the areas surrounding the user (as shown in Olarnky’s diagram above), but also the nature of the AR app itself (as shown below).

  • Public environment: User's entire body is involved as a controller, such as Nintendo Wii
  • Intimate environment: User is likely seated, their body a few feet away from the monitor, such as in any desktop-based AR experience
  • Personal environment: Describes an AR on smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices, such as Pokemon Go
  • Private: Entirely private AR environments, such as wearable tech like Google Glass

Both meanings serve useful purposes for the designer. Spatial considerations need to be accounted for when designing how users will interact with distant objects in frame, and the labels in the chart (taken from the Interaction Design Foundation) can provide helpful context on how the experience will fit within the surrounding world.

Check out our list of lorem ipsum generators to help your design process.

You might also like: Building a VR Shopping Experience for the Web: Tips and Takeaways.

3. A more literal user fatigue

Every UX designer should understand the concept of user fatigue, or the result of several high-effort interactions required by the user (or maybe even too many low-effort interaction ones).

And while it’s more common in VR experiences, some AR applications allow the user’s entire body to act as a controller. UXers must be extra cognizant of interaction costs when designing in augmented reality environments, often because those interactions can be literally exhausting.

That means taking extra precautions to avoid repeated, high-effort interactions that will tire out the user—both mentally and physically– and placing frequently accessed functions in easy-to-reach areas (a practice familiar with any user experience designer who’s crafted a mobile app).

AR design also poses a higher risk of over-stimulating the user; if there’s too many interactable, 3D visual elements on the screen at the same time, your user experience will suffer. Just take a look at Keiichi Matsuda’s Hyper-Reality, an extreme demonstration of AR overstimulation gone awry.

Designing For Augmented Reality (5)

Remember essential design principles

Just because you’re crafting with a relatively new technology, doesn’t mean you have to abandon the basic tenets of user experience design. In fact, you should embrace those time-tested principles even more.

(Video) Designing for AR - UX/UI Case Study

Why? Because despite AR’s prevalence, users still may not be entirely comfortable interacting with this nascent tech. AR applications aren’t the time to get too creative and break from design standards. On the contrary, you’ll need to implement more hand-holding than you would a standard desktop site or mobile app . That could mean a heavier emphasis on visual and audio cues or feedback, or even an in-depth tutorial.

Designing For Augmented Reality (6)

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(Video) AR Design Principles: Creating Immersive Experiences (Adobe MAX 2021)

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Augment user experience

Take comfort in the fact you already have the tools you need to design beautiful, engaging AR experiences. By combining the guidelines described here with your existing skillset, you’ll be crafting AR apps for ecommerce stores in no time.

Have you experimented with designing for augmented reality? Share your experience in the comments below!


What are the 3 elements of augmented reality? ›

AR incorporates three features: a combination of digital and physical worlds, interactions made in real time, and accurate 3D identification of virtual and real objects.

What skills do you need to be an AR designer? ›

Skills You Will Need for a Career in AR/VR
  • A Computer Science or Related Degree. ...
  • Programming Skills. ...
  • Experience With Building Solutions. ...
  • A Basic Understanding of Extended Reality. ...
  • An Understanding of Good User Experience Design. ...
  • 3D Animation and Modeling Skills. ...
  • A Constantly-Updated View on Trends.
28 Feb 2022

What is AR UX design? ›

The UX for augmented reality (also known as 3D user interface) concept emphasizes interaction and visual interest above all else. Users are interested in entering the virtual space and are not distracted by surroundings that are not real.

What programs are used to create augmented reality? ›

10 best augmented reality tools to consider
  • Vuforia. Of course, we are going to start with perhaps one of the most popular AR frameworks. ...
  • Wikitude. The list of the top augmented reality SDKs wouldn't be objective without Wikitude. ...
  • ARKit. ...
  • ARCore. ...
  • MaxST. ...
  • EasyAR. ...
  • Kudan. ...
  • ARToolKit.

What is the architecture of AR? ›

What Is Augmented Reality in Architecture? AR is an interactive experience that enhances and overlays a user's physical world with a computer-generated input. In architecture, AR is the overlay of 3D digital building or building component models embedded with data onto real-world sites.

What is the salary of AR Developer? ›

Ar Vr Developer salary in India ranges between ₹ 2.6 Lakhs to ₹ 7.2 Lakhs with an average annual salary of ₹ 3.6 Lakhs.

How much do VR designers make? ›

While ZipRecruiter is seeing annual salaries as high as $174,500 and as low as $20,500, the majority of VR Designer salaries currently range between $41,000 (25th percentile) to $100,000 (75th percentile) with top earners (90th percentile) making $147,000 annually across the United States.

Is AR Development Hard? ›

Really hard. It doesn't matter how easily you can develop a poorly designed application. When we first started building mobile apps over a decade ago, they, on average, sucked. But we've learned a lot.

How does Zara use AR? ›

But Zara took a different approach - namely, by providing an AR app that works in stores in conjunction with outfit displays and window displays, as well as AR-enabled packaging and promotional materials.

Is Python good for AR? ›

Python is also used in industrial applications of VR and augmented reality (AR). Autodesk's 3D visual prototyping and visualization software, VRED, includes many Python functions for VR use. Python runs on many different operating systems, and includes bindings for important graphics software like OpenGL.

Is AI and AR same? ›

Is Augmented Reality Part of Artificial Intelligence? That said, is augmented reality part of artificial intelligence? The short answer is no. In reality they're completely different technologies and, while tangentially related, they're actually quite distinct.

Do augmented reality need coding? ›

Coding is, in simple terms, a process of utilizing a programming language to get your computer to behave in a way that you want. It helps to develop scripts to carry out a design for apps, websites and many more. Any augmented reality app would also need knowledge of coding.

What coding language does AR use? ›

The 7 most prevalent programming languages for AR development are C#, C/C++, Java, JavaScript, Python, Visual development tools, and Swift.

Which algorithm is used in augmented reality? ›

AR technology often uses SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping): a computer vision algorithm that compares visual features between camera frames in order to map and track the environment.

What is another name for augmented reality? ›

Augmented reality is largely synonymous with mixed reality. There is also overlap in terminology with extended reality and computer-mediated reality.

Is IoT an AR? ›

AR in IoT is one key way companies are digitally transforming manufacturing processes. From asset locating to tracking real-time data across a factory floor, AR overlaid on physical objects within the industrial space can transform the way manufacturers function. In warehouse environments, too, AR has great benefits.

What are 3 types of augmented or virtual reality? ›

There are 3 primary categories of virtual reality simulations used today: non-immersive, semi-immersive, and fully-immersive simulations.

What is CAD in AR? ›

CAD-to-AR for Autodesk® Inventor® is a technology demonstration for Inventor of viewing Inventor 3D models in augmented reality (AR) using the Unity® game engine and the EasyAR™ augmented reality engine.

What is AR and its types? ›

There are four different categories of markerless AR such as location-based AR, Projection-based AR, Superimposition AR, and Outlining AR. Location-based AR: It ties the augmentation to a specific place by reading the real-time data from a smartphone camera, GPS, digital compass as well as and accelerometer.

What are the two types of AR displays? ›

Mainly, there is a classification into two main groups: marker-based AR and markerless AR, the former being the most primitive version of this technology.

What is AR designer? ›

Augmented reality (AR) lets you add virtual content to the real world. You can use AR to create experiences that enhance the way people see and interact with the world. ARCore is a platform for building AR apps. It harnesses the power of Android phones using these key technologies: motion tracking.

Is augmented reality a good career? ›

VR, AR, and MR workers are transforming the world across all industries. They get to do fulfilling work in some of the best companies in the world and earn quite a lot of money.

Who is leading in AR technology? ›

Comparison Table: Best Augmented Reality Companies
CompaniesOur RatingsRevenue (annual)
Apple4.5/5$274.5 Billion
Microsoft4.5/5$143 Billion
VironIT4.5/5$17.60 Million
VR Vision Inc.4.3/5$12 Million
14 more rows
25 Oct 2022

How do you become a VR designer? ›

How to get started with VR design in 2023
  1. 3 tips from 3 years of VR interaction design experience. ...
  2. Mastery of the design process. ...
  3. Spatial design knowledge & experience. ...
  4. Technical Knowledge and willingness to learn. ...
  5. 10 things every aspiring UX designer should know. ...
  6. 5 FREE Tools That Save Me Time as a UX Designer.

How do I become an AR VR developer? ›

You must be able to work with video game engines like Unity or Unreal to become an AR/VR developer. Both of these systems allow you to construct 3D settings. Furthermore, AR/VR engineers must be familiar with programming languages such as C++, C#, JavaScript , and Swift .

What degree do you need to be a virtual reality designer? ›

The education needed to be a virtual reality specialist is normally a bachelor's degree. Virtual reality specialists usually study business, computer science or nursing. 58% of virtual reality specialists hold a bachelor's degree and 18% hold a associate degree.

Does AR have a future? ›

The Future of Augmented Reality

The augmented reality market will continue to grow as the years go by, especially as technology becomes more and more accessible to consumers. With there being a significant growth in the focus on metaverse technologies, AR is the next step for many businesses.

How much does AR training cost? ›

It can cost between $150 to $300 an hour for instructional design and programming, just like the 3D modeling, the number of hours needed depends on your project: Level of user activity.

How much does it cost to create an AR app? ›

The total AR app cost ranges from $10,000 to $200,000. The cost depends upon the requirement of your mobile app, timeline, and complexity. Also, if you are planning to develop an AR feature-rich mobile app with a custom algorithm and API then the cost will increase.

How is IKEA using AR? ›

The IKEA Place App Design Uses AR Technology To Add Interactivity To The App Experience. With IKEA Place, the user can try items from the retailer in their actual homes using augmented reality.

What is AR in Louis Vuitton? ›

Augmented Reality Building Take Over - Vendôme, Paris

Working closely with the Louis Vuitton creative team we built an AR experience for the official Louis Vuitton app that allows users to see the flagship store in Paris being 'taken over' by animated characters from the 'Zoooom with Friends' campaign.

Can a QR code activate AR? ›

QR codes are commonly used as a “trigger” to launch AR experiences. QR codes are simple and effective and consumers are already using them on a daily basis for a range of purposes, so it only comes naturally to utilise a QR code in your AR experience.

Is C++ used for AR? ›

C++ is widely used for developing augmented reality and virtual reality applications. In fact, many of these applications run on Unreal Engine, which is built using C++. AR/VR applications need to handle large amounts of data that adjust continuously based on input from camera sensors and user interactions.

Is C++ used for virtual reality? ›

If you want to start developing VR apps, the best and most flexible languages to do so will be either C# or C++. They are the most used in a variety of VR experiences and, as a result, have the largest communities that you can turn to for help solving specific problems you can come across.

Which language is best for metaverse? ›

Java is one of the top programming languages that enable gaming developers to build games for every platform as well as the metaverse. It is one of the most popular programming languages for gaming projects in 2021.

Is Apple an AR? ›

Apple hardware and software are designed together for the best AR experience possible. Advanced cameras, amazing displays, motion sensors, and powerful graphics processors combine with custom machine learning and cutting‑edge developer tools to enable realistic and engaging AR experiences.

Does NASA use augmented reality? ›

Before NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket launches the agency's Artemis I mission to the Moon, it will debut on your mobile device! SLS has joined an array of augmented reality virtual 3D models in the NASA app, available for download free of charge.

What AR does Apple use? ›

(Pocket-lint) - ARKit is Apple's augmented reality (AR) platform for iOS devices. It enables developers to produce apps that interact with the world around you using the device's cameras and sensors.

What hardware is required for augmented reality? ›

AR software works in conjunction with devices such as tablets, phones, headsets, and more. These integrating devices contain sensors, digital projectors, and hence require: appropriate software that enables computer-generated objects to be projected into the real world.

How does Disney use AR? ›

To engage with the AR experience, Disney+ viewers will scan a QR code on their TV screen that allows them to download the “Remembering: The AR Experience” app, designed by technology studio Magnopus and Walt Disney StudioLab, on their iPhones or iPads.

What is augmented reality Give 5 examples? ›

Augmented reality uses the existing real-world environment and puts virtual information—or even a virtual world—on top of it to enhance the experience. For example, think of Pokémon Go, where users are searching in their real-life neighborhoods for animated characters that pop up on their phone or tablet.

What are the AR elements? ›

Argon is a chemical element with the symbol Ar and atomic number 18. It is in group 18 of the periodic table and is a noble gas. Argon is the third-most abundant gas in Earth's atmosphere, at 0.934% (9340 ppmv).

What are the key components of AR? ›

The hardware components of AR include: Sensors/tracking: Digital cameras and other optical sensors, accelerometers, GPS, gyroscopes, solid-state compasses, RFID, and wireless sensors. Input devices from users: Microphones, touch screens, gesture devices, stylus, pointers, and gloves or other body wear.

What is the future of augmented reality? ›

The augmented reality (AR) market is expected to reach over $97bn by 2028, bringing with it a dizzying change in the way we interact with the world and tech.

What is AR mostly used for? ›

Augmented reality is used to either visually change natural environments in some way or to provide additional information to users. The primary benefit of AR is that it manages to blend digital and three-dimensional (3D) components with an individual's perception of the real world.

Is augmented reality 3D or 4d? ›

An Augmented Reality experience is always 3D because the digital elements are placed in a 3D world (our world!).

Is AR 2D or 3D? ›

Augmented Reality (AR): overlays virtual content on the real-world environment, either perceived in 2D or 3D.

Why AR is better than VR? ›

VR creates an immersive virtual environment, while AR augments a real-world scene. VR is 75 percent virtual, while AR is only 25 percent virtual. VR requires a headset device, while AR does not. VR users move in a completely fictional world, while AR users are in contact with the real world.

What is AR element called? ›

Argon - Element information, properties and uses | Periodic Table.

What are the two types of AR? ›

Mainly, there is a classification into two main groups: marker-based AR and markerless AR, the former being the most primitive version of this technology.


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