How to perform usability tests in Virtual Reality environments - Flat101

How to perform usability tests in Virtual Reality environments

Virtual Reality is a technology that is increasingly closer and accessible to the majority of users. Although it is still in full development and evolution, it is about to reach the productivity period in the coming years, that is, the moment in which anybody will have a virtual…

Virtual Reality is a technology that is increasingly closer and accessible to the majority of users. Although it is still in full development and evolution, it is about to reach the productivity period in the coming years, that is, the moment in which anybody will have a virtual reality device, at home or at work if they have the need.

This is reflected in the study that Gartner publishes each year entitled “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies”, here we have the result of the study of last year 2017

Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2016. Fuente:

What is virtual reality and what is it about?

Nowadays we have all heard about virtual reality at some point, but what is it and what does it consist of?

Virtual reality is just a technology through which we can visualize any environment made by a computer. What changes then regarding a video or an animation? Mainly the way to visualize it, we leave the two-dimensional flat screen to visualize a space in three dimensions, thanks to glasses that reproduce this environment in a synchronized way to the movement we make with our head to look around us. But not only that, in addition, we can interact with this environmen, this is more similar to our reality and therefore generates a feeling of immersion so great that at times we can forget where we are and feel that we really are in that new environment.

Muestra de la gran inmersión que produce la Realidad Virtual, donde una usuaria intenta acariciar a un “perro” con su propia mano

Why perform and adapt user tests to virtual reality environments?

User or usability tests are still essential for any product we design, regardless of the environment used. It is the key to verify that the final user is able to use it and extract lessons that allow us to improve and optimize our product in order to cover the needs of the user, even to get the user to enjoy it.

Given the changes in interaction and use that occur between a usual environment, such as the use of a computer, smartphone or tablet in front of a virtual reality environment, it is obvious that the execution of a user test will require of an adaptation process.

What impact has the previous experience of the users

Another aspect to take into account and why it is necessary to make an adaptation in the methodology, is that it is still a new environment for most users, although more and more people have tried it, they do not use it in their daily lives.

So, at the beginning of the test, in addition to informing the user of what a usability test is and what the objective is, we must inform what virtual reality is.

Also, an introduction to the device, its controls and a brief tutorial on the use of the application will be needed. For this last part, we can take advantage if the application itself has a tutorial or define some introductory tasks in which we guide the user by showing the basic interactions.

It has been proven that users with experience in new technologies, especially in video games, will have a greater learning capacity,, since they are accustomed to learning to use new programs or controls of different videogames.

Usuario interactuando con el entorno de Realidad Virtual

On the other hand, the field of vision is much wider than that of a usual screen, so the user will require a longer time than before a computer or mobile screen, to discover the space in which it is located. This time should be taken into account in the subsequent analysis of the test.

How does technology influence the user experience and the performance of the test

Being a new technology, interaction standards have not yet been defined and each device can have different controls.

This technology will require more resources. The virtual reality device, a powerful equipment that runs the software, a free space of about 5 square meters for the user’s movement and we will have to adapt our communication with the users to be totally verbal and effective, since they will not be able to see us and everything that will be observed will be virtual reality, to which we must have access through an external monitor that reproduces what the user is visualizing and thus understand their actions. Therefore, it is essential to optimize the definition of tasks to be very direct and schematic in order to be easily understood.

Usuario intentando asimilar el control del dispositivo

If you want to read the complete process of the methodology that we have developed to carry out User Testing in virtual reality environments, you can consult it in the article “Usability tests in environments of Virtual Reality” that we published in

Virtual reality is a technology still developing, which must be followed closely to optimize work processes and get the most out of it. To achieve that, nothing better than having experts by your side.

Contáct us if you want us to advise you on the usability testing of your products in virtual reality environments.

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