In today’s world, the screen of all smartphones and tablets is touch screen. There are no buttons on household appliances such as electric gas or oven. It seems that you can use different devices only through touch screens. Why? Because the designers came to the conclusion that users work and interact with the device more easily with touch screens.

The user of the software, computer, tablet, mobile and any other digital or electronic device needs interfaces or intermediaries, such as buttons, to use the product. Imagine you and I want to work with a software. When we enter the environment of that software, it is the software toolbar and icons that guide us to use the software. If we don’t know what the icon or tool means, we hold the mouse or pointer over it. A text (Tooltip) will appear that briefly explains what the icon does.

The same thing happens when we enter a website or an application. Icons, buttons, short descriptions and various graphic and visual elements help us to interact with the site or app. A user interface designer or UI Designer is someone who is responsible for designing interfaces. Without those interfaces, no one can use the site or app or software.

It can be said that according to the changes that happen in the environment of software, sites and apps, the design of the user interface also changes. That is, the two-dimensional environment has two-dimensional user interfaces, and the three-dimensional environments (virtual reality and augmented reality) have three-dimensional user interfaces.

What is a 3D user interface? How is it designed? Why is it necessary for a UI designer to prepare for designing 3D interfaces (3D UI)?

In this article, 3D user interfaces are explained in detail and the questions raised are answered.

What is a 3D user interface?

Before this, 3D graphics, shapes and visual elements were used in website and application design. But the 3D user interface is completely different. You must have heard about Metaverse. Simply put, Metaverse is a 3D virtual world. Sites, applications, and social networks will create 3D virtual experiences for users in the not-so-distant future. Virtual reality is not only limited to the world of games and entertainment. When sites and applications and software are supposed to establish 3D interaction with the user, they need 3D user interfaces.

So, the 3D user interface is an interface that realizes the direct interaction of the user with the 3D environment and in the 3D environment.

Pay attention to the word direct interaction in the definition. This means that there is no physical device such as a mouse or keyboard or joysticks between the user and the 3D environment so that the interaction takes place through it. Let me give an example to make the meaning of 3D UIs clear. Do you remember the movie Matrix? The discussion here is about such worlds and interactions. (It may still seem very sci-fi. But maybe in the future some sci-fi movies will join reality.)

Imagine that when the user (human) is standing in front of the screen and is in a 3D environment, he can do things in that environment with hand movements or voice commands. Of course, the system has sensors that can track a person’s movement and position.

Tooltips should be carefully designed, just like any other user interface. If you want to learn more about the principles of designing tooltips, read the article “Don’t Let Tooltips Ruin Your User Interface Design“.

Applications of 3D UIs

In what areas are 3D user interfaces and 3D user interface design used or will they be used? Currently, the most important applications of 3D UIs are in the following three areas:

Computer games and home game consoles

Virtual reality has revolutionized the world of entertainment. Video game consoles such as Wii and Xbox are sensitive to the user’s movements, and the user can play by moving his hand or body or even making a gesture.

Mobile applications

If virtual reality has revolutionized the world of entertainment, augmented reality or AR has also revolutionized the world of mobile apps. Do you remember the augmented reality game Pokemon Go? You used to hunt Pokemon on the streets with your mobile phone. Another example is applications that help tourists see historical monuments and get information about them.

Controlling very large screens and home appliances

Wouldn’t it be cool to have your home theater turn on with a sign or a gesture?

Advancements and the emergence of new technologies will not only change UI design. User experience design and digital product design are also changing. Designers should prepare themselves for these changes and know what new skills will be needed in the future. If you want to know more about the future of UX design, read below:

What future awaits the profession of UX design?

3D user interface design

Before explaining about the steps of 3D user interface design, I need to clarify something. As I mentioned, designers have been using 3D elements, icons, designs, buttons and graphics in user interface design for a long time. User interface elements that are 3D graphics are called 3D GUI (3D Graphical User Interface). The designer does not need to do anything special to design them. If he knows 3D design, he can design them. Otherwise, there are many examples online that are easy to use.

So let’s go back to the main topic. How should a UI designer design a 3D user interface? Does it require special knowledge or skills? To enable 3D experience and 3D interaction with software, hardware technologies (such as sensors and human motion tracking systems) are needed. The design of that hardware part is not the task of the user interface designer. But the designer cannot design 3D UIs without paying attention to it.

The first point is that the designer must understand the characteristics of the 3D environment and know that he is designing for a completely different environment. That is, it is necessary to fully consider the hardware that enables user interaction with the 3D environment. The second important point to note is that 3D user interface design is a very new and developing field. In fact, 3D user interface design is a more or less theoretical topic about which research, articles and books are published. An important book in this field was published in 2017 called 3D User Interfaces, which is referred to by the most reliable sites in design and product design. (In order to write this article, information from the same sites was also used.)

So, the third point is that when the field of user interface design for 3D interactions and experiences has not evolved as much as the 2D user interface, the designer should take help from the general principles of UI design and, of course, his creativity. And if he is interested in preparing himself for the future, he needs to study and research about it.

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