The topic of making “data driven” or “data informed” decisions has been increasing in relevance over the last decade. A company’s ability to utilize quantitative input allows them to make educated, unbiased decisions. With the growth of web and mobile apps, the use of data has become almost required in the design and development workflow. Companies like Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and Amplitude allow product teams to track user flows and engagement metrics. A lot of this data is being used to improve the user experience of these apps — and it shows.
Modern web and mobile apps are intuitively designed as a result of years of product iterations to figure out best practices. This has led to an increase in user engagement and retention over time due to a better understanding of the features and functions that users care most about. Analytics provide an immediate feedback loop to product teams, validating each iteration. Like I said, this cycle didn’t always exist, it’s the result of trial and error through the growth of web and mobile.
Practice makes perfect.
So what happens when a new platform emerges?
Today, we’re witnessing the emergence of VR, AR, MR, XR, whateverR. The wave is here, and more people are creating content for these platforms than ever before. This poses a problem when it comes to the design and development process because these new technologies completely transform the way we interact with products. As Michael Park from VentureBeat puts it,
"…there are currently no globally accepted “best practices” for UX design and interactivity for VR and AR. As such, in every new VR or AR app that comes out, users have to go through a steeper-than-average learning curve to gain a basic level of competence."
In short, VR doesn’t conform to the current design and development standards we have for web and mobile. We need to define best practices when it comes to building for these platforms and, by extension, the new metrics that will lead to its success.
So let’s go to back the drawing board…
VR Design — What makes these new immersive platforms so much harder to design for compared to web and mobile? The main reason is the added dimension; we’re going from 2D to 3D. Read more about this from our friends over at Sketchbox.
VR Analytics — With VR and new immersive media, the inputs a user is able to perform are limited only by the capabilities of the hardware. With the addition of your head and hands, we’re rapidly approaching complete parity between the physical and virtual worlds. Because these technologies give the user total freedom, the amount of data points that can be tracked increases exponentially.
So why aren’t current web and mobile analytics solutions sufficient for VR experiences?
Simply put, it’s a new data set; there are entirely new questions to ask with regards to the user experience, and old metrics don’t necessarily correlate with this content.
We now have to measure a level of engagement that goes far beyond just page views and button clicks. Engagement is a broad term, but it basically boils down to answering all subsets of this one question: “How are my users experiencing my product?” Companies like Mixpanel and Amplitude have capitalized on knowing what questions their users should ask, and in turn have gotten very good at answering them. These standardized metrics have allowed analytics to become a crucial part of product development in the web and mobile space.
Because VR experiences take engagement to a whole new level, a fresh take on analytics is necessary. You could use Google Analytics to hard code custom events, however, this is an inefficient solution due to the free-form nature of VR. We need to be able to track not only a single action at a given point in time, but contextual data points as well. There are key metrics that are unique to VR that we believe will transform how we analyze user behavior. A few of these metrics include locomotion, field-of-view, object engagement, and physical space utilization. We will expand upon these areas in future articles, but essentially, these new trackable metrics and the insights we can derive from them will set benchmarks for future content. If you’re a believer in VR, it shouldn’t be hard to convince you that these insights will be crucial to the development of the industry.
We believe that data is paramount and with the coming of VR, AR, and MR, we can learn things about human behavior that we didn’t even know to ask. That is why we founded Observer Analytics, to build the next generation of analytics software for new realities. Feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com if you have any questions or would like to join our closed beta! Who knows, maybe down the road we can use this data to train autonomous robots. Now that’d be crazy :)