VR UX Audit: Microsoft Maquette

April 14, 2021
A Playbook VR Maquette Prototype

Introduction

Microsoft Maquette is a feature-rich spatial prototyping app. Maquette allows users to create static 3D scenes in PC VR and stands out for its mature object manipulation features, large asset library, and ease of use. For general 3D prototyping purposes it meets professional standards and best of all, is free to use and enjoy.

Interaction Design

Key Interaction Patterns

Maquette has very mature alignment, gimbal, and bounding box controls. The tool's object manipulation interactions are powerful. The user can change the size of the cursor using the dominant thumbstick, and can select using the cursor with the dominant grip button. Selection, grouping, and duplication are all easy to learn, but don't come immediately due to the tool's usage of trigger buttons versus grip buttons. Many apps assign selection and movement to the trigger, which is often seen as the dominant form of control. However, in Maquette, the trigger duplicates rather than selects, suggesting that duplication is the primary form of interaction over selection. This conflict resulted in a lot of accidental duplication.

Once a user can get used to the controller map, which is made easier thanks to Maquette's strong tutorial library, the tool has great rhythm. Features like the quick access menu place the most important features at the forefront and keep the workflow swift.

The dominant hand's option menu also adapts to the object state: when objects are selected, the options on the menu switch to actions towards that object, and when multiple objects are selected it surfaces a grouping option. Small considerations like these add up to create a strong, polished experience overall.

The Good

  • Object manipulation
  • Asset library
  • Asset customization: cool textures, intuitive customization menus
  • The camera/capture tool makes it really easy to share work
  • The Quick Access menu!
  • Unity Export (?)
  • Lighting the scene

The Bad

  • Controller maps contradict industry wide motifs found in tools like Tilt Brush, Quill, etc. This can slow down the learning process for users already familiar with other tools

Learning Curve

Maquette has a strong library of video tutorials that have been recorded by the team and also has a great onboarding process. The tool also features really beautiful pre-made scenes that act as inspiration for what can be built with the tool.

Skeuomorphism

The balance of 2D and 3D feels appropriate for Maquette's purpose as a design tool. Maquette's menus are all represented by 2D UI. 3D UI is not used unless completely necessary, so as a tool, not much is symbolized by 3D objects. A notable use of 3D UI is in their 3D object menu. Users can drag objects out of the menu and into the scene, and vice versa when they want to save custom objects. This is an enduring pattern in VR design tools across the board.

Sensory Inputs

Maquette has great sound design. Each sound is distinct, clear, well-timed, and often tied to a haptic. Maquette uses haptics during object manipulation for snap values when rotating an object, and also when aligning objects.

Accessibility

VR Accessibility Survey

The tutorial begins with asking you for your dominant hand. Everything is readable, and contrast is appropriate. The scene can also be scaled down to make Maquette usable while sitting or in a wheelchair. All menus are appropriately placed and are well within reach.

Human, headset, and controller models are included in the base asset pack and allow for designers within Maquette to consider accessibility while building out scenes.

Maquette is fine to use while sitting or standing. As a PC-VR exclusive, Maquette can only be experienced with 6dof. Menus are properly placed in a way that makes the user physically comfortable.

Locomotion

Maquette doesn't require crazy movement across the scene and doesn't have any explicit teleportation feature. However, users can drag their grip buttons to drag world/scene-wide scale, which is a common VR interaction pattern. The current scale is also labeled as you drag.

Visual Polish

Maquette looks and feels great. There's a professional level of polish to the UI that can be attributed to Microsoft's brand and talented design team. It makes the app a pleasure to use, and the example scenes also demonstrate visual polish.

Conclusions

Microsoft Maquette started off as an internal tool, and it shows. It's clear how much thought and love was put into the tool, and there is a lot to learn from how it was built. It may very well become the Photoshop of VR- a tool that can be flexibly used for spatial prototyping and will slowly grow by adding more specialized UI, animation, and storyboarding features. Many similar tools have died out from a lack of use but Maquette will thrive as it builds for real needs and people problems in the VR creative community.

Overall, Maquette is a powerful and effective tool for our team's purposes, which mainly requires prototyping of static scenes. The team looks forward to Maquette's Oculus Quest release if ever, as well as the implementation of mature UI features and animation.