From large physical objects that needed to be told what to do by a keypunch operator who would then relay instructions to a computer operator, to portable, easy to use devices that seamlessly integrated with our daily lives, computers and their counterparts have come a long way.
They are no longer tools just for specialists restricted to outdated rooms. User experience has become an essential part of our daily lives. Designers have also standardized the methods, tools and software’s that they use to extend the capabilities of what they can do and design for every kind of experience and user.
This evolution in thinking of how design can benefit the individual user has been a significant shift in the history of design. User experience has changed how we interact with every possible part of our world, whether it’s the alarm that wakes us up in the morning, to the way we connect with friends and family or even something as simple as ordering our daily groceries.
Another added advantage of user experience is how it has made technology and its capabilities accessible to every kind of user from young and old, to even those with physical disabilities. The emergence of Metaverse design is another such evolution that will forever change our relationship with technology and the way we think about design.
What is the Metaverse?
The Metaverse is “a set of interconnected digital spaces, that lets users do things they would not be able to accomplish in the physical world.” It essentially describes a parallel virtual world where people can carry out their daily tasks, play, learn, socialize and even live out their entire lives through unique virtual identities or avatars.
While the Metaverse experience has its origin in science fiction from novels such as Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and movies, it is no longer something fictional. We are at the brink of the Metaverse and designers are racing to design experiences using Virtual reality, Augmented reality and now Extended Reality that combines existing technology to give birth to an entirely new UX.
In the same way that the smartphone era emerged from the combined elements of existing technology – portability, connectivity and software, using technology available in the world of game design such as user generated content, shared worlds and unique digital identities, designers will be able to elevate our experience into something else.
Designing for the Metaverse
Designers will require a shift in their mindset, skills and methods to design experiences that are a portal into another world. This will first require them to stop thinking of the people who interact with technology as “users”. Rather they need to think of them as “players” – people who inhabit this virtual world and live and exist in it.
To design great experiences for “players”, designers will need to create wholly immersive design. One that allows people to live in these virtual worlds rather than just experiencing it. They need to be immersed enough to not just accomplish simple goals but continue pursuing them. This will need designers to expand their skills and the kind of disciplines they are familiar with. This even involves disciplines of economics, sociology and psychology since these virtual worlds are akin to societies that have a completely different set of ethics involved.
Designers will need to focus on the moral dilemma involved in creating these virtual design worlds. Thus viewing the Metaverse as a human society rather than just another digital product or service will be critical, as the decisions designers take will have much wider repercussions. People will no longer be able to shield their interactions behind a wall of technology.
Principles that will Guide Designers While Designing for the Metaverse
- Storytelling will be at the forefront
Designs in the Metaverse will need a greater understanding of storytelling and how to build a compelling end to end story. Since the Metaverse will be connected by thousands of experiences, designers will have to find a way to connect them all together. Storytelling is already integral to good design, but in the Metaverse, it will be more essential than ever.
2. Designers can longer design in isolation
In the Metaverse everything will need to work together seamlessly to create a consistent experience. What this means for designers is that they can no longer work in silos during the brainstorming and designing process. They will need to think about the complete 360 experience for virtual reality design and how users will act in every stage of the journey.
3. Learning 3D tools
To be able to design for the Metaverse, designers will need to move forward from 2D sketching tools that are popular now like Sketch and Figma. 3D modelling tools like Tvori and Gravity Sketch that teach designers the fundamentals of 3D designing, modelling and prototyping will become essential tools in their arsenal.
4. Focus on field research
Observation will be a key skill that designers will need to design for this new immersive world. As the usability of the product will be impacted by the physical space in which the user is using it in, designers will need to understand how their products behave in different physical surroundings. Thus perfecting their observational skills will become essential for designers.
Designers can prepare themselves for this new evolution by tapping into the tools and lessons they’ve learned from the digital age such as accessible design, inclusivity and ethical design. They should leverage all the tools they’ve spent the past decade developing such as research, collaboration, empathy and user advocacy. Designing for the metaverse will present several opportunities and come with plenty of risk as well.