Design patterns for Immersive Tech

Virtual Reality patterns

Spin Scrolling

User goal / Problem this is trying to solve

Allow the user to see more options on a menu or list than what is visible on the screen in one go

Interaction

On mobile phone and desktop computers we are used to scrolling down a page to see more information. Although this is very common, it’s something that does not immediately work as well in VR. One reason is that users may not expect to scroll down a page the same way they do on other devices. We can’t scroll real physical objects such as books. The information you see on a physical page is what’s there and VR models itself on this kind of physical skeuomorphism, so this may reduce expectations of scrolling. However, scrolling is a useful feature and VR is still a digital medium so we can offer scrolling if we feel it helps the user. Using a traditional grab & scroll approach often comes with a number of usability issues, so we need to look for other more VR friendly solutions for scrolling.

This pattern looks at the ‘spin scrolling’ pattern.

  • The user is presented with a list or grid of options on a menu panel, however there are many more options hidden below the fold
  • The designers make the list or grid look like a spinner (similar to iOS apps or a fruit machine in a casino)
  • The user places their hand into the list and flicks it up or down to spin in like a wheel
  • Moving the hand up spins it upwards (which essentially is the same as scrolling down)
  • Moving the hand down spins it downwards (which is like scrolling back up the page)

Related patterns: Grab & Scroll

Good

  • Once discovered and understood it’s relatively effortless and intuitive
  • The user can control the speed and distance of the scrolling with their hand movements
  • The user can often maintain an appropriate distance from the menu to vie able to review the content whilst spinning

Bad

  • This is a new interaction, so many users will not expect it at first. They need a prompt to discover it
  • There are rarely any scroll bars or up/ dow arrows so it’s not always clear that scrolling is possible. These are still needed to prompt the user.
  • The interaction can be clunky so work needs to be put in to male it run smoothly. For example the content does not always scroll at the desired speed. Whilst moving the hand out of the way after a spin the fingers can accidentally interact again and cause the scrolling to stop or suddenly go the opposite direction.

Design challenges

The main challenge is helping users to understand this is the new way to scroll in VR. It’s actually the way you would scroll something in the real world, but it may be unexpected at first.

Remember to also design the content to be readable at arms length distance from the panel so that the user can spin and scan the new content simultaneously.

Examples

Oculus Home: scrolling catalogue of items to customise the home environment

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