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Delight in the Details

Microsoft Design – Medium | Amy Henson

Why big 3D experiences require small UX moments

A great inspirational poster once told me, “The details are not the details. They make the design.”(Thank you, Charles Eames, for your wisdom and stylish chairs.)

Too often, details are overlooked in feature development until someone inevitably wonders: “And what are we doing to delight our users?” Here, a collective groan will likely emit from motion designers, UX writers, sound designers, or other “details” designers everywhere.

The subtle motion that guides the user to where they need to be; the audio effect that perfectly accompanies what’s happening in the experience; the encouraging copy that appears right when the person on the other side of the screen needs it… these are the “delightful” (and highly strategic) moments that help turn lofty product goals into real, useful products.

UX writing for 3D

I’m a content experience writer working on Microsoft’s 3D experiences in Windows 10. Right now, those experiences include Paint 3D, one of the easiest ways out there to create in three dimensions; View 3D, an app that not only lets you view 3D models in your screen, but also put them into your real world with a new Mixed Reality feature; and Remix3D.com, an online community for 3D content discovery and portfolio-building.

Across these experiences, our goal as a team has been to design 3D for everyone. And a lot of what it means to take that goal and manifest it in our products relies on giving weight to the details.

For me, that means writing crisp, clear, and inspirational UI copy that encourages people of all skill levels to try out features in 3D.

A tool tip explaining the Sharp edge 3D doodle tool in Paint 3D.

Rather than ask a 3D novice to create a “3D extrusion,” let’s invite them to add depth to a doodle.

Instead of prompting a user to download an FBX file and edit it with 3D software, let’s teach them how to “remix” 3D model right in Paint 3D.

Let’s guide people through the new world of augmented reality with the help of real-life examples, coaching them to drop a 3D model onto their desk, into their hand, or next to a friend.

A dialog on Remix3D.com, encouraging people to sign in and remix 3D models.

Inclusive design = good design

With the goal of designing 3D for everyone comes the responsibility to always have an eye on the details that enable all kinds of people, with various abilities, backgrounds, and skills, to create.

For our developers, that means providing interaction models that include touch, mouse, keyboard, and pen. For our visual designers, it’s staying aware of what our UI elements will look like in high-contrast mode. For me, that means listening to narrator as it reads to our visually-impaired users, and making sure the experience is great and inviting to everyone.

Of course, all of these details are never done.

By working with Microsoft’s user research team to share our designs with real people, digging into usage data around certain buttons, tips, and experiences out in the wild, and just asking the people around me if they understand what the heck I’m trying to say — democratizing 3D will continue to face challenging UX hurdles. And it will take serious attention to the details, as well as clarity about the big picture, to bring the third dimension to life.

Have you tried playing in 3D yet? What 3D software do you love, so I can go stalk it? Check out Remix 3D on your phone or desktop, or try Paint 3D on your Windows 10 PC, and let me know what you’d like to see in the details.

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Delight in the Details was originally published in Microsoft Design on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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