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AR / VR, UX & Technology, UX Design, Virtual Reality

The Metaverse: How It Can Be Shaped by UX Designs

Metaverse became a buzzword as Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement that Facebook would be renamed as Meta. All of a sudden, everybody is talking about the Metaverse, and everyone is looking forward to the new era. UX Connections is no exception as we are keen on tech and design. However, we as a UX design agency, would like to place focus on how UX can help in the development of Metaverse here in this article, taking the stance of producers/designers. These are the UX aspects we would touch on:

  • Smooth Start
  • Humanity
  • Accessibility & Inclusivity
  • Privacy & Ethical Concerns

Please make sure to read the article from Ethos which takes the stance of users so that you get the whole landscape!

What is the Metaverse?

According to Statista’s surveys, only 14% of American adults in 2022 claimed they are very familiar with the Metaverse. So, first thing first, what is the Metaverse? Cutting out the complex technical terms, you can imagine it as a virtual world of 3D spaces where it opens the door for people to connect and socialise. Users are able to build their own avatars and spaces in the Metaverse. Compared with Zoom, it comes with dimensionality with the use of virtual reality and augmented reality devices. If this is still too vague, think about Club Penguin! That will help you get the picture.

With that idea in mind, you could probably see that there are a lot of possibilities for the Metaverse, and that is true. As mentioned above, the Metaverse puts great emphasis on social connection; as a result it comes as no surprise that it can be used as a place for social gaming where people can not only play but also build virtual reality games and play to earn NFTs. The Metaverse can as well be a venue for virtual events including concerts and conferences, especially when we see Microsoft is taking the first step towards the Metaverse by adding the feature of 3D avatars to Teams. What’s more, it is a potential marketplace where businesses can sell to customers. In fact, even the government starts investing in the Metaverse. South Korea has announced their national project to build Metaverse platforms and boost the Metaverse industry in Korea.

How Metaverse Benefits

Although part of the hype around the Metaverse came from the rebranding of Facebook, there is no denying that it has the potential to benefit our society. The Metaverse as a community with human connections will allow people to find commonality with others and  express their identities about what they like and who they are. It can also complement real-life events, elevating the level of experience for those who are not able to attend in person, and even bring people to experience things that were unreachable. For example, it can be a game changer of education, enabling students to experience the geography, history and culture that were lifeless in textbooks. From a business point of view, the Metaverse will be a great tool to present new product ideas. Rather than showing flat images in powerpoint slides, speakers can present 3D prototypes of the products. Ethos fleshes out the Metaverse’s benefits to businesses, make sure to head over if you are interested!

VR UX Design

How UX Helps

Smooth Start

UX is powerful in many ways. One of its great benefits is to guide users through their journeys, either when they are on a digital platform or at a physical event. Therefore to begin with, good UX guarantees Metaverse users a smooth start. The onboarding process could be long and kill the vibe, especially in the case of Metaverse as it has to introduce people to a virtual world that they might have never been to. However, our UX consultant Zohrane suggested that through gamification, the walk-through embellished with marvallous storytelling can instead spark people’s interest. UX consultants will also ensure the icons and elements used in their designs are familiar to people, and that the objects as well as facilities are designed as they are recognised in the real world, so that new users would spend less time accustoming themselves to the interface and surroundings in Metaverse.

Zohrane Dyer
UX Consultant

The UX Connections View

Gamification and storytelling are the ways to carry out engaging, effective onboarding.

 

Humanity

Another aspect that UX helps with is humanity. In Metaverse, all users will be represented by avatars rather than just profile pictures as they are on calls. It is important to show their humanity because it enhances the immersiveness. There are a few ways to reinforce the traits of humans. One is, for example, by having avatars reflect users’ behaviour and status. It could be that the avatars physically reflect what the people behind are doing or that we utilise some signs to indicate it: when users are typing, their avatars appear to ponder or a bubble with three dots (which is the typing indicator) appears; when users temporarily leave the device or when they are disengaged, their avatars appear to zone out. Users see avatars, not people in the Metaverse. It needs a push to get the interaction to the same level as in real life. Also on avatars, personalised avatars are something we are almost certain to have in Metaverse and people are likely to spend some time creating one. UX will lead them through the process, with the right setting of sliders and toggles, not only matching up to users’ instinct but also steering away from the uncanny valley where the avatars become unsettling because they are too humanlike. 

Accessibility & Inclusivity

In addition, UX will enhance accessibility of Metaverse, working towards the goal that all users enjoy an equivalent experience as much as possible. Taking people with visual impairment into consideration, UX consultants would check readability in terms of colours and typographical features, and increase colour contrast, font size or weight if necessary. To render it accessible to people with hearing loss, there should be visual notifications to complement audio alerts. And for people with limited dexterity and strength, hand gestures to control should be available. 

Yet the discussion of inclusivity does not end there. One question awaits to be answered is how we include people without access to VR devices, how we enrich their experience. To answer it, UX consultants must conduct research around users and build personas, which enable Metaverse producers to see what it requires to close the gap. There are other queries to be investigated by UX consultants too, such as how the metaverse can offer experience when it is all virtual without physical connections. There are a few thoughts around it so far. One is to improve its immersive designs. It can be done by providing appropriate physical feedback like vibration when users enter an input, and by building perfect transitions when avatars pass from one room to another in a way that maintains the continuity. Besides, when designing the Metaverse, it is vital to bear in mind that users are not going to be users only, they are also going to be creators, which is rare in other circumstances. Therefore it must be made easy for users to create. For instance, when users want to pull in tools like PayPal or YouTube, the course of action has to be simple.   

Privacy & Ethical Concerns

As everyone is aware, there are a few concerns about Metaverse, but we believe UX is capable of cushioning the impacts. Consultants can help to tackle privacy concerns by devising the information sharing system. Users will be able to choose effortlessly what information, photos, or documents they want to share with whom. As for the worrying impacts on children, parental controls can be brought in, giving parents control over Kids Profile and allowing them to limit the access to certain contents. UX consultants will embed the guide in the walk-through.

 

The era of Metaverse is arriving. We hope this article has prepared you with some basic knowledge and with luck inspire some thoughts about the UX of the Metaverse, whether you are a potential user or a potential designer of the Metaverse!

 

The article was written in conjunction with Ethos.

UX Connections, the UX agency with UX/UI consultants to help your digital product succeed.

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