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Digital Trends 2016 – Virtual Reality

Welcome to the 4th post in the Digital Trends series!

We’re absolutely flying through these trends now and I hope you’re enjoying all the content I’m putting out there to share with you guys. If you’ve missed any of the previous articles, be sure to check them out here:

Digital Trends Part 1: Empty State Design
Digital Trends Part 2: Beautiful Typographic Combinations
Digital Trends Part 3: Movement

Let’s dive into some virtual reality!

Virtual reality is taking the digital landscape by storm at the moment. It’s an incredible way to create a truly immersive experience by providing both audio and visuals you can feel a part of, interacting by exploring your surroundings. You might have heard of the Oculus Rift already, which is popular amongst gamers – but we’re seeing the same kind of approach emulated on the web.

If you have a really exciting idea for a website in these days, it isn’t enough anymore to simply put together a flat, motionless page and hope it gets your users excited and engaged. Users want to be able to explore, adventure and most importantly be taken on a journey to experience a brand. Why make it difficult for users to explore your website by hiding all of your links behind little hamburger icons? We don’t want to have to think, we want content spoonfed effortlessly into our consciousness. Here are a few websites that take their exciting, engaging ideas and have developed websites that tell brilliant stories.

1 – Bangui Loubliee

In an attempt to improve awareness on issues such as hunger, poverty, politics and community unrest within Central Africa, this website sends you right into the heart of the local African communities. It does this cleverly by producing a series of interactive videos that make you genuinely feel like you’re experiencing life as if you were in their shoes. This approach to web design evokes an incredible amount of empathy and encourages you to act by donating to their cause. It shows how interactivity and storytelling can stimulate a user’s emotions, ultimately leading to increased engagement.


2 – Louise’s Phone

Warning: graphic language and themes are used on this website.

Continuing with the theme of emotion, this website aims to tackle the issue of cyber bullying amongst teens with an interactive awareness campaign. The whole room is filled with balloons that represent hurtful messages that were sent to Louise. As you click each one, it loads up the message in a mobile phone style design. Unfortunately, Louise isn’t the only one to have experienced this issue and there are thousands more vulnerable teens who have to deal with this every day. What this website does brilliantly is encourage you to sign the petition, spread the word and hopefully bring an end to cyber bullying as a whole.


3 – Star Wars Battlefront Planets

To lighten the mood a little, I’ll switch things up by moving onto the Star Wars Battlefront website. I have previously written an article which goes into the UX of this in much more detail, but for now I’ll focus on the immersion and virtual reality of the journey the website presents you with. The website flies you through video sequences from the different planets within the game. The video pauses intermittently to allow the user to explore the surroundings, players and weapons. It allows you to experience the gameplay without actually purchasing the game, as a way to entice you to buy it. As a design its goal is to excite and educate potential players, and it does this elegantly. The way information is communicated with the same interactions for every planet, at every pause, is great. Once you’ve learned how to explore the first planet you’re an expert by the time you get to the 4th.


4 – El Caso

El Caso is a spanish TV show that follows journalists in an investigative police thriller format. They have launched this website to sit alongside and promote the show and it’s incredibly creative in its approach. It is an interactive video story, filmed from the protagonist’s perspective. The website starts you off in the office and sets you off on a series of tasks including finding a camera, focusing it to take shots and tapping space to hold off a thief.

As a form of immersion I can see this approach being a popular trend within web design in the coming years. With the availability of GoPro cameras, it would be easy to achieve this effect on a low budget. It could be the beginning of interactive video walkthroughs into clients day-to-day activities, design studios to see how they work or anything really where public access is limited. It’s definitely one to watch!


5 – Fiat 124 Spider Experience

As a means of advertising the new 124 Spider, Fiat have put together this awesome website that lets you travel in the backseat of the convertible around 3 beautiful locations in Italy. The website allows you to click and drag in a 360° view to check out the locations as you’re driven around. At different key points on the journey, you’re stopped to explore the area and soak in some of the local culture.

Again, this type of virtual reality allows you to experience Italy, and the possibilities of exploration that could be yours if you had this car… without actually having to be there. From an advertising perspective it’s great, as it not only sells the vehicle but sells the lifestyle that could also be yours.


6 – Inside Asia

Utilising the power of Google Street View, Inside Asia Tours have developed a website that lets you get a flavour of 3 countries before you travel there: Burma, Japan and Vietnam.

Incredibly creative illustrations have been produced that show which areas of Japan have been highlighted for users to explore, which then take you straight to the street level for you to experience the locations for yourselves, in beautiful 360° photospheres.



You can also read more about this project from the developers of the website, here.

7 – VR Sessions

More and more music focused websites are popping up recently as promotional tools for new releases. They are embracing the latest technologies within web design (HTML 5, WebGL and now VR), offering brilliantly creative solutions to sell their work. The latest addition to this trend is the Virtual Reality Sessions site that takes several artists and lets you listen to their performances as if you were stood in the centre of the room, and they’re playing around you. Making use of YouTube’s 360° videos, you can really feel at the centre of the crowd.


8 – Piaget Polo Experience

This may be the most elaborate way of advertising a new product launch for Piaget’s Polo S watch. It allows users to experience Polo as if they were actually there, playing the sport on a horse in a field. As this sport is quite elusive in nature and not exactly easily accessible, allowing users to experience it in VR is a clever idea. It also communicates to the intended audience that this watch is a premium product, and again focuses on the lifestyle you could have… very similarly to how car brands work. Top campaign.


9 – Total War: Warhammer

It’s not just the web that this trend is so successful in – you’ll notice a lot of games making use of the technology too. Here you can experience the new Total War: Warhammer game in 360° (and 4K too, if you have a monitor that supports it!). The game looks incredibly chaotic, fast paced and exciting to play. I can see this trend taking over the entire gaming landscape in the coming years… and with technology such as the Oculus Rift getting more affordable every year, it won’t be long before VR headsets are commonplace in every home alongside consoles and PC’s. Keep an eye out for it!

10 – Mega Coaster

To finish this article off, I thought we’d end it on a high by showing how virtual reality has the power to turn your stomach whilst being sat totally still. This brilliant interactive rollercoaster experience looks awesome, and genuinely makes you feel like you’re there at the theme park experiencing the adrenaline in full effect. Enjoy!

To conclude

Virtual reality as a form of advertising & marketing can be extremely powerful. It can provoke heightened emotional responses from your audience, provide immersion and transport people to locations they would never normally have access to. It encourages more engagement than an ordinary static, still website and can really bring your brand to life in ways customers have never experienced before. With this being an incredibly hot trend, why not consider using it in your next project?

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed this article!

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Hi, I'm Ash, a web designer and developer from Leeds, UK. I enjoy skiing, extreme sports and all things design & UX.

  • Dmitri Kara

    Star waaaaaars <3

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