Breean Mckinney of 360 Immersive Discusses the Importance of UI & UX Design in the Virtual Space
For those of you who prefer reading an article to watching a YouTube video, we have included a full transcript of the discussion below.
Breean: This is 360 Immersive, and we are here today with Audrey Miller. We’re excited to have her back in our studios. Last time, the president of the Idaho Virtual Reality Council was able to interview her about her experience with the gaming interactive media and mobile technology (GIMM) program at Boise State University. We would love to have an update on what you’re doing and how you’re able to use what you’ve learned there.
Audrey: Sure. So, today I’m working at HP. I am a UI/UX designer there, which means “user interface” and “user experience.” The user interface is the actual tool or application. You can think about a website design layout where a user would go in and interact with it. The experience side of it is driving the layout to be something that has behavioral things that are intuitive and helpful, so that the experience for the end user is something that’s valuable and enjoyable. So, it sounds like it could be simple, but it gets kind of complex when you work with a worldwide team and everybody has different opinions about what’s a priority. You have to take all of that information in and really digest what the problem statements are to drive an end user design that leads to a great experience. For instance, right now HP is launching a global tool, and that was a big change. We had to fix end-to-end infrastructure as well, so the experience was not just front-end-related with our end user, but also creating a better back-end integration. So it was very data-complex on top of needing to drive it with those experience-based inputs.
Breean: So, how much of your education from the program were you able to then roll into this position that you have?
Audrey: Actually, a ton. So, I’ve driven the design through gamification and really identifying ways to make it an application that’s necessary for business. It’s a conversion tool for them for their customers. So, it’s for HP’s partners that come in and use it. And, what I’ve done is create an experience that is something that if you play, you understand that people play games in different ways. There are some games that are poke-and-play – learn on your own. Some have information, and the layouts of those games – just depending on that end win goal. And so, I use those concepts and methods into something that would seem maybe a little bit less fun to try to make it something as enjoyable as I could.
Breean: Could you give us an example of bad UI and bad UX?
Audrey: A bad UI/UX experience would be something where I go into, let’s say, a website or an application, and I know what I wanna find, and I go to the menu, I can’t find it. I go down the page – every user goes differently. I’ve even studied different ways to go into websites. There are heat maps you can track where they click, how they scroll, their scroll rates, and watch a user, without seeing what they’re doing, how their behavior is. So, when you see somebody who’s struggling to find their information, it shouldn’t be so hard to get to the information they need to, and if that’s hard, that could be considered a bad experience. So, that’s one thing that is part of the UI because if the interface itself is not set up properly, it’s gonna make the experience bad. But sometimes, the UI can be set up great, and then the experience is actually struggling with what the UI is integrated with, and so, that next level is actually how the UI interacts. And, there’s a great picture I found online once that shows a spoon as the UI. Now, pour the cereal in the bowl, the milk, the bowl, put the spoon in. How does that tool work with others? And, that’s the experience – eating the cereal.
Breean: Like, can I get the cereal from the bowl to my mouth?
Audrey: And, does it taste good? What’s the texture? It’s everything. So, it’s really layers. There are layers of things that go into an experience, and so, I’ve really studied this all the way back to information architecture, which is a part of development. If that’s set up properly, it helps.
Breean: That gives us a little bit better understanding of how that all interplays with our user experience and how we’re moving and navigating through our technologically advanced world. So, as you know, 360 Immersive focuses on using virtual reality and 360 live video for training and education applications. So, how important – from your perspective – do you feel great UI/UX is for training and learning?
Audrey: It’s everything if you ask me. Last time I was here, we had just won a competition with an AR application for training on 3D printers, and that training really was driven through how simple is it for a user to show up, get ahold of the app, use the app, and be done. And, we were able to pitch a training tutorial on changing filament of a 3D printer in three minutes. We had five minutes to pitch and two minutes with questions. So, it was incredible to see actually how you can lay out an experience in really immersive experiences, and if it’s done right, it’s great. And, I have been in some where it was a little clunky, and that’s part of also how this emerging technology – we’re still just learning. And, we don’t know until we have all that data of users. We don’t have that experiene. It’s getting there, but as it progresses, you really have to think if you’re going to use design thinking to say, “Hey, how is a user gonna feel?” Not just me – all the users that might get in here. And, what’s their end goal? Those things. So, for training, it’s really huge because how quickly can they learn it, how quickly can they get to it, and just the experience they have at the end of it – was this time-consuming and really a waste of my time, or did this really ingrain something in me? And, I think that’s the difference. With immersive training and augmentative training, you get a very different experience. The videos stay in your head, the actual interactions feel real, and when you experience something, your perspective shifts from observational – like in a lot of slide decks you get today for training – to one of actual – it’s one from personal experience, which then becomes reflective. I reflect on my experience of training, and then I actually can do what I need to do. And, what’s funny, with the same team that we won that application, we went and built another tutorial-type application, but in VR, for dancing, and it would be something where you would get a dance move in VR, and then you would try to copy it, and it would record your movements and stop, and you could step out and see if your body aligns with the actual VR space, and then I can pause it and go stand in there and critique my body, and stand in different ways, and go, “Oh, that’s what you mean by ‘twist my hips’ here.” So, it’s just very different when you can relive it, not just rewatch it.
Breean: So, that really widens the scope of safety training.
Breean: Well, Audrey, thank you so much for coming back to visit us, and updating us regarding where your education and your career is taking you, and helping us understand a little bit better about how UI and UX interface with training and education technology. And, I know that we’re gonna have you back for another update.
Audrey: Sounds great, thank you.
Breean: Thank you for joining us. We appreciate you spending time with us today, and if you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments or reach out to us. This is 360 Immersive.