Spatial computing offers unique opportunities and challenges when designing applications and games. At WWDC23, Apple’s design team hosted an extensive Q&A to help developers explore design for visionOS. Here are some highlights from that conversation, including insights on the diving spectrum, key moments and sound design.
What is the best way to make a good first impression on this platform?
Although it depends on your app, starting with a window is a great way to introduce people to your app and keep them in control of the immersion rate. In general, we recommend that you don’t push people into a fully immersive experience right away – it’s better to make sure they’re focused on your app before moving them elsewhere.
What should I consider when importing an existing iPadOS or iOS app to visionOS?
Think about the key moments where your app really shines. For example, in the Photos app for visionOS, opening a panoramic photo causes the image to wrap around your field of view. Ask yourself what that key moment might be — a screen-free experience — for your app.
From a more tactical perspective, consider how your UI needs to be optimized for visionOS. To learn more, see “Design for the Spatial User Interface.”
Can you say a little more about what you mean by “key moment”?
A key term is a feature or interaction that uses special capabilities of visionOS. (Think of it as a spatial or immersive highlight in your app.) For example, if you’re creating a writing app, your key moment might be Focus Mode, where you fully immerse someone in an ambient or spatial audio soundscape. To find them in the creative zone. That’s just not possible on a screen-based device.
I often use the grid system when designing for iOS and macOS. Does that still work here?
for sure! Grids can be very useful for designing windows, and point sizes translate directly between platforms. Things can get more complicated when you’re designing elements in 3D, for example, if a distant element has nearby controls. See “Spatial Design Principles” to learn more.
What’s the best way to experience Apple Vision Pro without the device?
You can use the visionOS emulator in Xcode to create system gestures such as pinching, dragging, tapping, and zooming.
What’s the easiest way to make my spatial computing design look polished?
As a starting point, we recommend using the UI components provided by the system. Think about hover shapes, how each element looks by default, and how they change when people view them live. When building custom parts or large elements like 3D objects, you need to customize your hover effects.
What interaction or ergonomic design should I consider when designing for visionOS?
It should lead to comfort practices. People don’t need to move their head and body too much, so we recommend keeping your main content in the field of view. The more concentrated the content is in the field of view, the more comfortable it is for the eyes. It is also important to consider how you use resources. Make sure you support system gestures in your app (use their eyes to select an element and hand gestures) so people can interact with content indirectly. For more design ideas, see “Design Ideas for Sight and Motion.”
Are there design philosophies for fully immersive experiences? Should the content wrap around the person’s head, above and below them?
Content can be placed anywhere, but we recommend providing only the required amount of immersion. Apps can create great immersive experiences without controlling people’s entire environment. To learn more, see the Human Interface Guidelines.
Human Interface Guidelines: Immersive Experiences
Are there guidelines for creating a fully immersive experience environment?
First, the ground plane under your feet must be consistent with the real world. When designing your unique environment, focus on the key details that create immersion. For example, you don’t need to present all the details of a real theater to convey the feeling of being in one. You can also use subtle motion to help bring the environment to life, such as gentle cloud movement in the Mount Hood area.
What else should I consider when designing for spatial computing?
Sound design comes to mind. When designing for other Apple platforms, you may not pay as much attention to creating audio for your interface because people often mute their audio on their devices (or it’s not desirable for your current experience). With Apple Vision Pro, sound is critical to creating an immersive experience.
Humans are adept at understanding their environment through sound, and you can use sound in your visionOS app or game to help people better understand and interact with the elements in their environment. When someone presses a button, for example, an audio signal helps them recognize and confirm their actions. You can position sound in VisionOS so that sound comes directly from the item someone is interacting with, and the system can use their location to provide appropriate feedback and texture. You can create spatial audio themes to make scenes feel more alive and immersive.
For more on designing sound for VisionOS, see “Explore Immersive Sound Design.”
For more on design for VisionOS, see more videos, human interface guides, and Apple’s developer site.
Human interface guidelines
Design for visionOS