Designing holistic experiences using virtual reality

November 12, 2021

Picture this…you’re walking through the city centre, you’re eyeballed by a fundraiser. Instantly you start thinking of potential excuses to avoid engagement…

“Sorry I don’t have time”

“got a meeting”

“already donating”

…or you choose to simply ignore them.

I know I’m guilty of at least one of the above.


Picture this…you’re walking through the city centre, you notice a group of fundraisers using virtual-reality headsets with someone just like yourself.

Curiosity strikes. You question what they are doing? As you approach, the fundraiser greets you and then you’re hooked in.

He hands you one of these VR headsets. You feel a bit more at ease. You are more open to discussion and curious to what you might interact with.

Not all suspicion is gone though, you still have this negative picture and lack of trust in your mind of a typical street fundraiser; asking for your name, address and direct debit details.

You’ve been handed the VR headset. As you move your head — war-torn streets, explosions and a softly spoken narrator explains the devastation caused by barrel bombs and the human lives that remain.

You’re experiencing the Syrian capital of Aleppo under siege. Amnesty’s virtual reality-themed 360Syria project.

Negativity surrounding the street fundraiser and your own worries now appear somewhat distant. Your emotions have been tapped and you’re engaged with the difficulties surrounding Syrians and the purpose of the fundraiser.

Remove borders

360Syria brings a holistic approach to fundraising. It immerses the user into the war-torn environment, showing the impact of the war and creating a greater realisation of the impact it has on the lives of Syrians.

Virtual reality used in this way has allowed borders and boundaries to be removed. Allowing the third sector to make greater connections with potential donors, raise greater awareness of campaigns and ultimately see an increase in donations.

Over 100,000 people used VR headsets in this campaign — resulting in an increase of 9% in the number of people signing up to direct debits.

We still need to look towards ways we can streamline the process from the initial exposure of the VR experience through to the online donation process.

Those implementing experiences should look to create methods of allowing people to either be nudged to a donation process at a later time or share their experiences. For those that aren’t ready to donate social proofing offers a way for them to still contribute but in a non-monetary method.

Thinking holistically

I challenge us to look at the wider picture, to step outside of this notion of simply thinking digital; minimise ideas such as…”we should build an app or a website” to solve problems.

There is now an avenue open for both user experience and user interface designers to use our knowledge in persuasive design techniques. We now have technologies such as virtual reality to form greater connections through more compelling experiences with people.

Using virtual reality should not be limited to the third sector; it can help inform the way we design future learning experiences for new drivers, nervous drivers and treatments in mental health.

Let us look toward more tangible and holistic methods to create compelling solutions to connect with people with products and with services.