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I am planning to design an online exhibition platform. I looked at existing exhibition platforms for reference and found that most of them have 3d interfaces.

Here is an example of fancier 2d interface on Youtube.

Some are full 3d with navigating like in-game. I think it would be a bad UX with such an interface.

I don't think it's a good idea to have a 3d interface as I was uncomfortable in navigation and think that a good flat design will work better.

So my question is: can a flat interface be better than 3d interface? What factors should I consider to find the trade-off between these two?

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  • There might be good reasons for making some parts of the interface 2D (such as the 'design mode') while introducing some 3D elements for parts of the interface 3D (such as the 'preview mode'). It seems possible that some users might prefer this so even being able to toggle between modes might be another option to consider.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 23:14
  • I would still say that the example you provided is just a 'fancier' version of a 2D interface as there is no 'depth' in the navigation and it is still just a number of contact areas laid out in the horizontal and vertical plane. The simple question to your answer is that 3D interfaces are most beneficial when you need to manipulate things in that third axis of interaction, and is often used in VR/AR applications where the user is immersed in a 3d experience and want to interact with things in the same way.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 22:51

2 Answers 2

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Fortunately, today's technology allows us to make 3D, game-like navigation and if it was up to me I would always choose that option. It is immersive, it is impressive and it can create memorable experiences.

People may go as far as suggesting it to be a VR/AR app but this becomes very complicated because the user might not have the appropriate hardware to enjoy the experience.

One reference I would study and try to implement: Google Maps. The users can see the exhibition as a map, and then go into 3D mode by navigation the expo using a mouse or a keyboard. Yet again, you have to think who your users are and test with them before diving into this solution.

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For me, the most troubling part of the experience in the provided sample is the inability to quickly figure out what is clickable in that busy scene. I don't mind skeuomorphism in interfaces, 3d or otherwise, as long as my ability to interact is clear. I will offer that the path of least resistance in an exhibition platform could appear to be something that looks like a real world exhibition, but it would be more fun to create an easy-to-use experience that would get out of the way of the material to be exhibited.

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