NOTE: Virtual Reality is a developing field. The Facebook Oculus Rift and Sony Morpheus just being some of the players. A lot of time is put into UX design as that's the hardest part to nail, so when answering VR related questions please indicate your experience, but do feel free to attempt answering even with limited experience. Answers containing research from the previous VR boom are also much appreciated.

When presenting longer texts for the user to read, how should one present them. The obvious options for positioning I have seen are:

  • Fixed regardless of head orientation, so if you move around it's always in the center of your vision.
  • Fixed position in space, so you can look away from it.

And secondly there is the question how to get to the next part of the text:

  • Scroll text when looking down
  • Control scrolling through dedicated controls
  • No scrolling if it can somehow fit in your vision

When should one use which options? Or which better UX options are there?


Firstly, I would try and avoid long portions of text in a VR environment!

Head up display style text which is fixed regardless of orientation has its place and so does text that is fixed in space, and it very much depends on the purpose of the text.

You mention about the possible need to look away from the text. Again - this depends on context. Might the user need to look away, or is the text such that you really need the user to focus on reading the text, and you don't want them to look away anyway.

I would not scroll when looking down because the act of moving the head down is likely to have some associated eye movement downwards. If the user is looking down in order to see the text further down, and the text moves up there's likely to be on overcompensating factor in the relative motion of the head, the eyes, and the scrolling text. Next thing you know, the user's vomiting on the carpet.

A quick nod downwards to trigger an autoscroll may work, perhaps with an opposing upwards flick (whatever the opposite of a nod is) in order to stop scrolling if desired.

Obviously no scrolling is needed if it fits in the view, but you may need to be careful about not making the text fill too much of the view as it can be tiring to read if it results in a lot of eye movement, which may be the case for HUD style placement.

Paginated text changing with a side flick of the head is another option.

Unfortunately, I'm inclined to say, that there's too much case of 'it depends'. It depends on what the general environment is; what the text needs to convey; the relevance of the text in the local environment at the time it's displayed; what else might be distracting the user at the time; ...

We also don't know if your specific environment has hand motion sensing. I mention small head movements above, but hand movements are equally valid if they can be associated with the text as opposed to anything else going on in the environment.

One option to consider is that you just have the text read out loud.

I was involved in VR in the 90's but that was a long time ago...


Look right to grab the 'page', look left to pull the 'page' over. Could get tiring tho.


As Roger said, "it depends".

If you want to keep interacting with your environment then you probably do not want the page locked to the camera. For example, reading a user's manual for operating a virtual contraption - you'd like to look at the contraption to operate it and then look away to read the text about it, back and forth. Locking the page to the camera is kind of analogous to a modal dialog on a desktop - sometimes warranted, but often annoying or counterproductive.

Once you concentrate on reading you do not want to have to move your head much and you do not want to have to fiddle with UI too frequently so pagination tends to be more comfortable. How do you turn the page? I would first look at the platform - does it have a pattern (gestures, buttons, etc.) for Next and Previous? UX will be poorer if each activity has its own idiosyncratic interactions.

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