User experience (UX) designers will play a major role in making consumers feel comfortable with the metaverse. That comfort will allow customers to fully enjoy the benefits of metaversal experiences and help brands achieve the best possible return on their metaverse investments. To accomplish this, designers need to understand the metaverse as a product of technological evolution, as a channel requiring new technical skills, and as a new domain for engaging users with compelling stories.
By Susan Cline, UX Director & Digital User Experience Consultant, Capgemini Americas
It’s helpful to think of the metaverse as a 3D environment where users can virtually exist and as a place where designers can evolve their creative visions. Evolution is familiar to the design field, which moved from web 1.0 to web 2.0 and now web 3.0. For example, many user interface designers moved into UX when images were no longer enough to create a good user experience. That move laid the foundation for what’s next: metaversal design thinking.
Rethinking Design and Users
Now, UX designers need to think about 3D instead of flat design, interactions with a deeper purpose, and game theory. In the metaverse, every design choice should center around engagement in a 3D, immersive way. That’s challenging and exciting because it gives designers the opportunity to be rule makers instead of just rule followers.
This changing design role starts with a new way of thinking about consumers – not simply as users of technology but as players. This doesn’t necessarily mean UX will be gamified, but it will be immersive so that users are playing, exploring, and even creating in a virtual space. The user’s role will be less passive and more active – less like a shopper clicking through an online product menu and more like the character in a game moving from experience to experience.
Create Compelling User Stories
Great stories offer great experiences for users. They also allow brands to seamlessly incorporate marketing activities, and they provide a consistent user experience across channels. A winning story differentiates a brand from its competitors through structure, graphics and other sensory elements and through the narrative itself. Designers must continue expanding their role as visual storytellers in immersive spaces, designing each interaction for multiple purposes to enrich the consumer experience and create points of engagement with brands and their products.
Often, the most memorable and engaging experiences involve other people, and the easiest way to bring other people into a user’s digital experience is through social channels. Designers must consider how their brand’s products or services can incorporate metaversal social interactions and take them beyond what’s possible in real life and traditional social media channels. For example, one concert in the metaverse brought together groups of friends into a live audience of millions. That’s something that’s simply not possible in the physical world.
Observe User Behavior in the Metaverse Closely
UX designers know how to observe, and this professional skill will help us understand how to create engaging metaversal experiences. We can build user-centric immersive stories by looking at data, talking with users about their expectations, and conducting studies. We also need to observe the brand—how its customers engage with the metaverse and how its competitors are engaging with their customers. This type of observation must be ongoing because metaversal technology and consumer expectations are changing rapidly.
Learn and Strengthen 3D Design and VR Technology Skills
To create the 360-degree view that the metaverse supports, designers will need to add 3D modeling skills to their existing set of design tools, including the design principles used to create 3D assets rather than flat images. Virtual reality technology skills will also be critical, especially as consumer VR hardware gets smaller, lighter, less expensive, and more common. Both of these skillsets will help create exciting user journeys and feature products in the best possible way in the metaverse.
Design for Commerce Impact
Ultimately, designers need to approach the metaverse as another channel in a brand’s omnichannel portfolio. There are three metaversal use cases, in particular, to consider for brands. The first is virtual-to-virtual when consumers buy virtual items like clothes for their avatar as part of a metaversal experience. The second is physical-to-virtual when consumers buy something in a physical store to unlock in a virtual space, such as a gift card that grants the user access to a virtual concert. The third is virtual-to-physical, such as when a customer buys a shirt in a virtual store and has the physical product shipped to their home address.
Metaversal Design Thinking
It’s an exciting time to be a UX designer. The use cases and design potential of the metaverse are unlike anything we’ve seen before, so it’s critical for designers to think holistically and build the technical skills they need to create successful brand experiences. It’s also important to stay observant and open to user feedback as the pace of the technology that powers the metaverse – and what users expect from it – accelerates. Regardless of how expectations change, and regardless of use case, each metaversal experience must be designed to stand on its own, complement the total customer experience, and drive conversions.