User Experience vs UX for VR

In web and mobile development, having good UX means users are able do things quickly and easily like pay their bills, watch videos, or buy more dog food. If you were making a e-commerce site, you want to get the user signing up, browsing your wares, and then confirming their order all before their coffee gets cold. For a mobile app, you want to get the user customizing their next coffee and pre-tipping the Door Dash guy before they see the flop on the poker hand. For VR, we can’t use the abbreviation, UX, anymore.

In VR, the User Experience could mean making a user sob or chortle (when’s the last time an app made you chortle?). The User Experience encompasses what you hear and touch as well as what you see (when you hear web UX it’s probably an ad). User Experience should now include new dimensions like creepiness and surprise. When you add an avatar and it makes people cringe while sucking their head inward like a turtle, you gotta turn down the creepiness. When you spawn objects too close and it makes people jump, you gotta turn down the surprise.

We’re not equipped to properly think about UX as User Experience yet for VR. We can measure frame rate, track DAU, and even do cohort analysis but it’s time to create new vocabulary and tools so we can make better experiences. Should creepiness be on a scale of 1–10 and is it even consistent across people? How would we even measure that? Can we use the microphone to detect when a user rips off their headset and says “nope”? If there’s going to be a new standards committee or coalition or framework for this, I’d love to participate.

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