# | UX DESIGN
Are we ready to design for 3d and 0D User Experiences
As tech becomes more pervasive and data more augmented, the traditional 2d canvas designers are accustom to, will have to evolve. Here are some existing tools that can help and my thoughts on a designers responsibility in this new frontier.
Ok, thats a mouth full lets clarify a few terms:
x Not just talking about the aesthetics
x Or the wireframe layout of a page
x Or even the structure of your code to optimise its performance
✓ I am talking about how all these things come together to create a feeling of simplicity for the user
Basically this means that the technology is becoming less visible. A few popular examples are the Amazon Echo, Google Home and some Chatbots. They allow users to interact with them in a more natural way that hides their complexity. Some people call it a 'zero ui'.
This could be defined as quite the opposite for pervasion. Rather than taking away, this layers information onto things contextually. Although not new some more effective products in development are the Mircosoft's Hololens.
I think the solution starts with the tools that we use to design these experiences. Lets start by talking about the familiar dimension '2D'.
Designing for 2D Ux
A lot of designers come from, or at-least understand the world of print and 2d graphic design. In the early days of the web we skewed tools like photoshop to prototype interfaces and this largely worked for desktop but also presented communication problems between dev and design. The limitations of HTML and CSS were not designed into the framework of the photoshop software. It also pigeon holed designers into the people that 'make it look pretty' rather than concentrating on interaction design.
With the introduction of rich mobile interfaces tools like photoshop were simply not good enough because they were too divorced from the end experience. As we designed we needed to see what it looked like and felt like on an actual mobile device. VP Design of facebooks new UX abandoned it and looked for an more physically real tool. He used quartz composer which recently relaunched as Origami. Tools like sketch, invision and Adobe Xd and muse introduced a couple of years ago have been excellent in letting designers articulate ideas for the wider company as problem solvers rather than sugar coaters.
This brings us to the next phase of the design equation. As UX/UI designers that have been spoilt with great tools to express our ideas in two dimensions, what the hell are we going to use to express them in 3 and 0 dimensions.
Designing for 3D
It's not just about the aesthetics of making an interface look three dimensional. It's about how the interface responds to the fidelity of computer vision. You are probably familiar with two forms of computer vision.
VR, which is largely seen as the best experience with current technologies and AR which is not new nor is it the most convincing experience yet. Hololens has brought the experience closer to is highly inaccessible at the $3000+ price point and it’s limited field of vision. Some people may try argue that VR is not a form of computer vision, but remember we are not just talking about what the computer can visually see. We are talking about what it can sense. And the fact that the experience of the Oculus, Vive etc depends on sensing 3d space is in itself a form of computer vision. A product that sums up this argument fairly well is Google's Project Tango. VR is is heading in this direction from a business and mobile point of view too according to Mark Zuckerberg's Connect 3 presentation.
The tools: Currently prototyping for these products is out of reach for most designers. But there are a few hack arounds that could help you get around this. Game design tools like Unity and Unreal engine have got VR built into them. For those of you that see Code as a massive barrier (not because it’s complexity but because you don’t want to be stuck in the matrix all day) then Unreal has got an amazing solution that I love. Blueprint is a form of visual coding similar to that used in Origami Studio (formerly known as quartz composer). It’s fantastic for rapid prototyping and in some cases can take it all the way to consumer ready applications. Sadly for AR there are no worthy contenders that I can think of other than traditional paper prototyping. I’d love to know from you if you have found any.
Designing for ZERO Ui
It’s a little misleading because this refers to the fact that there in no user interface. Untrue, it just means the interface is more natural - embedding itself into pre existing interfaces that have become pervasive such as voice control and chat. In many ways you could say these are the original interfaces. So the canvas has changed from this notion of ‘quantum paper’ to this data base of flow charts.
The tools: Arguably you could do this in a number of tools but the are so complex and designed for 100’s of other types of prototyping that i would not say they are fit for purpose. The only two that I would recommend is Chatfuel for chat-bot prototyping and Sayspring (still in it’s infantsy so a bit buggy) for voice UI.
A Designer's Responsibility
Don’t fuck it up! As designers I believe we have the privilege/responsibility to create the best possible experience in this new frontier. The quality of experience that we create on this new canvas will determine whether the platform is adopted or not. More importantly I believe we should see ourselves as architects because the interfaces we build are now sitting on the physicality of our world. The design trends we create now more so than later will have a very heavy footprint on the future.
Here are a few principles by some already existing innovator that can help us:
- At Oculus Connect 2 Kristoffer Brady and Richard Emms, shared their findings of initial UX research for VR
- Googles Daydream tries to tackle trolling in UX in VR
- Storytelling insights from former Pixar animators
Incase you're not quite sure about the future of computer vision. Here is a great guide by Michael Abrash that establishes where we are and where we might be going next.
Personally I believe that talking about it is simply not good enough. You have to put it into practice to make it work. With this philosophy in mind I will be embarking on two types of projects. Building an experience tackling some of the above issues in a personal project of mine based on the principles of Afrofurism. Despite having a foundation in programing and design I have come to realise that as I climb the career ladder in the tech space I had to choose a path of becoming the ultimate developer or designer as I did not have time for both. So, I will be trying to see how far I can get without writing a single line of code.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this emerging topic as it is the canvas of the future.