User experience can be defined in many ways, there are countless examples of varying definitions across the internet but to put it simply, UX is about how you feel when using a product or service. You know straight away if an experience is going to be a good one or a bad one within your first few seconds of interaction. This could be anything from visiting a website to playing a video game. 

Roll back the clock nearly 18 years (wow), and I got my hands on a copy of Resident Evil for the first time and as soon as I loaded the disk into the pop up drive I had a feeling that this experience was going to be good. The title menu appeared and I chose easy (yep I’m a wimp) and I was presented with a cut scene which was real video of someone walking through a misty field with real actors. The music was chilling and immediately my expectations were met, that this was going to be a new experience for me, and introduction into the survival horror genre.

Ok, so the acting was terrible, lines such as Barry saying ‘ WESSSSKEEEERRR’ that were being read were more wooden than the desk my PlayStation sat on but it was BRILLIANT. As I got into the first parts of the game, the echoes of the characters speaking in a ‘empty mansion’  a ticking clock in an empty room really set the scene and delivered an immersive experience I would never forget.

As the years went on these games evolved and games like Silent hill really brought the genre to the forefront of gaming by providing a tense and realistic horror experience that is loved by users around the world.

The thing that clicked with me was, that I was not just playing a game, I was having an experience, one that I loved and kept going back to day after day.

Future experiences using virtual reality

I’m really excited about Virtual reality, oculus rift is already changing the way in which games are played and the PS4 headset is due out in October so I’m pretty stoked about this. Here is a video of a guy – ‘Kent Jones’ reviewing the Oculus Rift VR game ‘ Doors of Silence’. The review itself is funny as hell, and as you see from the video as a fan of survival horror games, this looks the best that there is to come.

That experience that I had with Resident Evil back in 1998 would be trumped by an experience like this on oculus rift. The actual user experience would heightened by sublime atmospherics, soundtracks and actually being immersed into the world that is not real, but it damn sure feels like it!

Virtual reality will no doubt change the way in which we interact with games, PlayStation releasing the VR headset in October, Oculus and Microsoft doing the same with Xbox and Nintendo are even researching it although the though of playing super Mario with a full headset on makes me kind of nauseous to think my brain would be overloaded with colours and sounds.

Perhaps the key to creating experiences for VR headsets remains the same as if you were creating user journeys for users to get to where they need to on a website. The key is to keep it simple.

Virtual reality web browsers

Yes, this is a thing and it’s already happening! Take a look at this for the Samsung Gear VR headset.

This for me is a game changer and will change the way that browsing and user journeys will be affected when we are all on hover boards and using jet packs to get to work. We will have to rethink the way in which we navigate websites, and how we even access them in the first place. In the Samsung example, they are looking at gaze mode, so if you ‘ look’ at a certain point for a few seconds, that will initiate a ‘click’ of a link or an expansion of an image.

On screen keyboards will alter the way that we access sites and form fill outs as well as the option to use voice recognition, something that of course has come a long way since Siri and google have adapted this technology.

As digital consultants the research phase of any development  will have to take into account these new habits of browsing and also the way in which people interact with your content through the use of a VR headset.

Will it take off?

To quote Partridge, in a word ‘ Probably yes’ and here at Prodo Digital we already conducting preliminary research into the future of browsing habits. Whilst we do not think there is an immediate requirement for VR friendly websites there most certainly will be once this technology becomes more readily available to the marketplace.

One thing is for sure though, experience design is here to stay.