6 UX Design Principles for Augmented-Reality Development

March 13, 2023

UX designers have really embraced augmented reality (AR) in recent years, a technology that is helping them combine aspects of the real world with computer-generated elements. Thanks to AR, UX designers can create innovative designs that capture the user’s imagination—although to achieve this, there are some challenges to overcome.

Less-than-perfect augmented-reality development can have a negative impact on the user experience, which is why designers need to consider how they can integrate UX design principles and AR. In this article, I’ll outline six UX design principles to consider when integrating augmented-reality development into your next UX design project.

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What Is UX Design for Augmented Reality?

UX design involves designing a digital product or app by prioritizing the needs and preferences of the user. The goal of a UX designer is to ensure an app is easy to use and navigate, and that, in part, requires elements that load quickly.

When designing a product, UX designers try to put themselves in the shoes of the user, thinking about what features they might like and what could impair the overall user experience. This, combined with psychological thinking, lets designers empathize with the users rather than focusing on personal preferences.

In combination with augmented-reality design, the UX design process ensures that the AR experience is seamlessly integrated with a real-world environment. To make the product user friendly, the designer must consider the spatial and contextual elements and how they impact the overall experience. While achieving this can be very challenging, applying several design principles can make the work easier.

Disadvantages of Augmented-Reality Products

As a new technology, augmented reality is far from perfect. Therefore, the resulting challenges sometimes dissuade developers from creating AR products. Some of the challenges of AR development include the following:

  • It can be time consuming.
  • It requires a lot of expertise.
  • It can be a costly exercise.
  • AR apps can require a lot of processing power, causing a mobile phone’s batteries to deplete quickly.
  • Devices usually need z-depth perception for apps to work to their full potential.
  • Spatial recognition is still an imperfect technology.
  • There are some safety concerns from a data-security perspective.

These challenges make it vital that you hire a UX designer who has significant AR design experience. On average, a freelance UX designer costs just under $100,000 a year in the US.

6 Augmented-Reality Design Principles

Now that we’ve considered the challenges of UX design for augmented-reality development, let’s look at how you can overcome such issues by sticking to six core design principles.

1. Considering the Real-World Environment

An augmented-reality experience is spatial, so developers must consider the real-world environment when developing a product. Any environment can be broken down into four areas:

  • Intimate space involves parts of the body such as the face or hands. Obvious elements are face filters in apps such as Snapchat and hand tracking when the user is wearing an AR headset.
  • Personal space relates to objects and other people who may be within our immediately surrounding environment. AR table-top and card games are prime examples, which require overlaying AR objects onto a physical surface and integrating other nearby players.
  • Social space becomes important when the camera can zoom into other areas that have other people in them. This can be useful in a multiplayer scenario or in identifying landmarks and key objects.
  • Public space is a general area that is big enough to contain augmented elements with which users can interact. In some cases, AR apps can track entire buildings such as the Mumok Museum in Vienna, Austria.

2. Taking Physical Movement into Account

An augmented-reality app needs to engage the mind, but must also be fully functional from a physical point of view. This is why movement is a core design principle. When designing a product, the designer must take into account how users will move and, thus, how they might impact the space around them.

Whether using a head-mounted camera or a mobile device, users have only a limited view of their physical surroundings, making it difficult to know where to look. To orient users within their physical space, on-screen prompts such as arrows and other visual aids can improve the user experience significantly.

The aim is to guide users to where they need to go. But it is important to give users choices to avoid a boring, linear experience. You must also avoid sudden, awkward movements that could cause an accident.

3. Planning for User Onboarding

This principle relates to delineating the steps that users need to take to make a product ready for use, thereby ensuring maximum usability. It includes establishing product requirements and defining the technical limitations of whatever device people are using.

Devices with built-in LiDAR sensors can easily handle most elements of AR, but other devices may require more onboarding. This could take the form of an instruction manual or a pop-up Help menu. Also provide Help documentation for tracking algorithms, where hints may be necessary to point the user in the right direction. For example, an outline of an object might prompt users to align their vision with that object.

If you plan to monetize your app, you should also ensure Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance, as well as adhere to other important regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

4. Having a Reason for Integrating AR

It is always a mistake to implement augmented reality just because you can. Although many developers are keen to get in on the action, integrating AR won’t necessarily offer a better experience. Integrated AR must actually be useful and add value to the product, offering the user a new, worthwhile experience.

5. Designing User Interactions

Once the above principles have been implemented, the next step is to think about how the user would interact with the product, making the user interface as responsive and intuitive as possible. This means supporting simple interactions such as the following:

  • tapping to select
  • dragging the center of objects to translate them
  • dragging the edge of objects to rotate them
  • pinching to zoom in and out.

If your product is also going to be used via a tablet, actions that require finger input should be minimized, as these devices typically need to be held with two hands. Using simple common sense such as this can really improve the user experience across all devices.

6. Integrating AR into the User Interface

The last principle on our list is that the product’s user interface (UI) should combine both a traditional layout and augmented-reality features. The designer must find the perfect balance between focusing on creating an immersive AR experience from the beginning and providing a simple user interface that users can quickly understand and that functions well.


Augmented reality can bring real value to a range of apps and other software products, providing users with innovative new features that they’ll love. However, AR development is not a straightforward exercise, and you must adhere to several design principles if your product is to be successful.

UX designers must look at things from the user’s point of view, considering their environment, their movements, and how they can come to grips with things quickly. Plus, the product must have intuitive UI controls so the user can interact with it easily, as well as a simple user interface that avoids creating any obstacles or introduces any design flaws. 

Freelance Copywriter and Ecommerce SEO Specialist

New York, New York

Magnus EriksenMagnus works as an independent copywriter and ecommerce search-engine optimization (SEO) specialist. Before embarking on his copywriting career, he was a content writer for digital-marketing agencies such as Synlighet AS and Omega Media, where he mastered on-page and technical SEO. Magnus holds a degree in Marketing and Brand Management.  Read More

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