Update: Modus VR library

Feb 15. 2021
By: Ken Brueck

We’re excited to announce an update to Modus VR’s UI in the upcoming February 2021 release! Among many changes, the most notable is the new library navigation. Because this change takes a little getting used to, we wanted to give an overview in advance of the release.

We recommend customers familiarize themselves with the changes prior to hosting a design session with a client.

Issues with the current nav

Our current navigation has served us well but was starting to reach its limits. Some specific issues include:

  • Limited scale. Once we reached the threshold of what the average user could memorize, typically around 100-150 products, it became difficult to remember where products were located.
  • Strict categorization. It didn’t allow for versatile products to appear in multiple categories. For example, a generic table might be suitable in a kitchen or an office but the UI forced us to pick one category over the other.
  • Inconsistent categorization. Sometimes the nav would be related to the object’s classification (e.g. speaker or furniture) and other times it would be related to where the object is used (e.g. commercial or kitchen).
  • Product distribution. All of the above issues combined allowed for a single product category or manufacturer to visually dominate the library. If we added 20 products from one manufacturer, it quickly seemed like that was the majority of products to be found in Modus.
  • Low information density. The categories column occupied precious menu real estate, reducing the number of products that could be displayed at a time.

Goals for the new nav

It was time to rethink how Modus presents the list of available products to users. Our goals included:

  • Better discovery. We wanted users to be able to stumble on products they were looking for, often without knowing in advance where said products would be.
  • Similarly, the more specific the need, the fewer products would be presented to the user.
  • Suited for VR. We needed a nav that could somehow present more control to the user while occupying less real estate. It also couldn’t rely on a keyboard.
  • Scales as the library grows. We have octupled the number of products in Modus in three years and our rate of adding products continues to accelerate. We need a UI that can keep up with the library’s growth.
  • Keep it fast and simple. Modus has always been about speed, and the library must keep that focus. The new nav must keep clicks minimal and not introduce complex concepts.

Overview

The new nav starts off by presenting all products to the user. The user then applies filters to restrict the number of products presented. Typically, within 2-3 clicks the user can be down to a dozen or so results.

Let’s walk through a practical example: finding tower speakers.

The new library navigation
The new library navigation

The user sees All Products, currently hovering around 250 entries. Clearly this is not a manageable list, so the user goes to the top left menu and selects Electronics.

Each click of the navigation dramatically reduces the number of results
Each click of the navigation dramatically reduces the number of results

One click cut the results count in half: 132 products!

The user now selects Speakers, cutting the results in half again. Note that this represents all products in Modus that are tagged as a speaker. The user can stop here with 61 results, continue filtering to reduce the results further, or go back up the chain to either All Products or Electronics.

Looking to have a smaller list to work with, the user selects Towers and is now presented with just 10 options.

This part functions the same as it always has: simple drag and drop
This part functions the same as it always has: simple drag and drop

From there, the user simply drags a product into the world as always.

How far we’ve come and where we’re going

It’s fun to go back and look at where we were three years ago to help imagine where we might be in 3 more years.

The library navigation evolving each time the product count doubled
The library navigation evolving each time the product count doubled

In October 2017, when we first launched in beta, we had a mere 29 products and our UI’s simplicity matched the demand. A year later, we added divisions to the list to accommodate 57 total objects. In October 2019 we added categories to better organize our 106 objects. We felt like we were bursting at the seams.

Our October 2020 release had roughly 230 objects. If you’ve been keeping track, we’ve doubled the number of products in Modus every year since our initial beta. It’s so exciting to see how much has changed in three short years. I want to thank all of our customers that have been with us for so long and I’m so excited to see what the next three years bring.

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