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UX Design Principles for Augmented Reality

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In recent years, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are slowly coming to the fore. In entertainment, marketing, education amongst other industries, AR is rapidly being adopted in apps and in the realm of UX Design.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that layers computer-generated images on top of the real world. With the layer that is superimposed on actual reality, a new third and dynamic layer. In AR applications, users interact and receive real-time feedback on the action they have performed.

At the same time, there are also challenges for designers in the transition to AR design. While experienced designers have a repertoire of skills to design web and mobile UX design, the design competencies may not be directly applicable to the design of immersive experiences of AR.

The opportunity for AR design abounds, unlike virtual reality, which requires the use of headsets, AR can be experienced on mobile devices – both Android and iOS devices can support the applications, making it a highly feasible option for developers and marketers. Although it is currently used predominantly for gaming, AR UX design can potentially make apps more accessible, appealing to a broader audience.

Opportunities for AR in UX Design

The heart of UX design is the consideration of the needs of users, their user journey and lubricating the user flow. In AR apps, success means the offering of a great customer experience through a seamless blend of hardware and software.

AR experiences are essentially overlaid on the real environment, making the experience highly spatial and contextual. That adds a new layer of design consideration that incorporates the spatial experience.

Principles of augmented reality UX/UI design

If you are thinking about ways to approach AR in UX and creative UI design, you have to first understand that AR for UX emphasises interaction and visual interest above all else.

1) Ascertain that AR is the correct solution to your problem

It is important to ensure that you are not jumping on the bandwagon of AR application without ascertaining that AR is the correct solution to the problem you are resolving. First, answer the question of what you would like to achieve with an AR app. It is the designer’s duty to ensure that the AR experience is right for the project. The process of identifying the users and their needs applies. Thereafter, consider if those problems are resolved through real-time immersion. Ask yourself: Why is AR the best choice for the experience? Nailing the answer will anchor and ground the design.

Photo by Tobias on Unsplash

2) Augmented reality design should be tied to clear business and user objectives

As with all other UX design processes, the time and effort plouged into AR design must add value to your product or the user experience. Ikea’s Place app ( is a brilliant example of a good use case for AR. With the app, users can see if the products can fit in their environment, as opposed to measuring or ordering the actual product. Remember that usability testing is also critical in getting feedback on whether the design meets the user objectives.

3) Consider the environment

AR experiences are spatial and always interconnected with the real world. Understanding the environment is critical to the design process.

Diagram representation of personal space limits, according to Edward T. Hall’s interpersonal distances of man, showing radius in feet and meters.

Understanding the space that you are working with will help determine your approach to the design. Are you integrating your AR design for the private or public space? Examples of AR in the intimate space include face filters (like Snapchat or Instagram) or hand tracking. In the social space, the interactions include spaces that might be occupied by other people, unlike in the personal space. This space segment is widely used for multiplayer AR games or augmenting objects on a scale. In many cases, AR experiences are situated in the public space and anchored to specific locations with enough area to place an augmentation.

4) Consider movement

When designing the experience, you want to tap on the area around the user most of the time. As smartphones give a limited view into the environment, the designer’s must guide the user. By including the navigation elements on screen, you are directing the user’s gaze and helping them move through space.

Since the experience is immersive, users can get caught up in the AR experience and ignore physical objects in space. As a result, they can bump into objects or people, causing accidents. Remember to build reminders for users to check their surroundings. Another key thing to note is to always guide users to move forward, not backward as they might risk bumping into objects not within their view.

Photo by XR Expo on Unsplash

5) Ease of onboarding

Users who are encountering AR experiences for the first time will require guidance on how to interact with it. Therefore, onboarding is absolutely key to creating good UX.

  • Parcel out the instructions without overloading the user with information.
    You should show tips on performing specific functions in the context of real interactions. As users move along in the journey, drop the tips as it happens.\
  • Guide the user visually using a combination of visual cues, motion, and animation in-app to orientate users.

6) Designing Interactions

AR experiences should include intuitive and responsive interactions. Be familiar with the gestures and prompts:

  • Tap
  • Swipe
  • Pinch
  • Rotate
  • Voice
  • Hover
  • Facial Expressions

It is also important to consider the devices that you are designing for. For example, minimising input via finger is critical for tablet users. As most of the tablets are held with two hands, some UI or interaction elements placed in the middle of the screen will be very hard to interact with. To accommodate those users, employ other means of interactions apart from touch like voice, facial experience or triggering interactions by looking at them long enough.


Ultimately, the most important thing that any designer should remember about AR is that people are seeking experiences and not technologies. The choice of technology must sense to the user, solve particular problems and be easy to use.

If you want to know more about user experience and its industry, do check out our other resources available on our website, such as our articles, weekly webinars, and podcasts.

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