Wearable technology is at the forefront of cutting-edge innovations happening in world of smart technology.
There are any number of gadgets out there that cater to a variety of needs from geo tracking to communicating with a bunch of friends through interconnected devices.
Though Fitbit, Nike+Fuelband and Samsung Gear were the earliest players in the wearable market a lot many new names have also entered the space competing for extremely limited ‘body real estate’.
Wearables have a tough task of combining aesthetics with functionality, and the latest research says that women can be the biggest consumers if designers spend enough time studying their preferences. Users are also increasingly sensitive about how safe their personal data will be on the new gadgets adorning their wrists, necks or ankles. It’s high time that tech companies focus more on safety features.
Apps designed for wearable smart devices need to be simple and useful. Native apps designed for wearables should address the limitations that a gadget strapped onto a body part presents.
Here are few things you need to keep in mind if you design apps for wearables.
1) Design for Wearables!
Wearable devices often get relegated to the back of the wardrobe within a few months of purchase. A survey has recently shown that most consumers stop using their wearable fitness gadgets within a few months of use. You need to ensure that you build something that provides a unique advantage, is easy to use, aesthetic and non-intrusive.
UX gains should definitely outweigh UX costs. If using an app is going to interrupt the direct task a user is performing at the moment then that app and its functions score low on the user’s usability list.
Voice user interface is highly suitable for apps designed for wearables. Voice control is used in Android Wear watches, Pebble Time Apps, Samsung Gear and a host of other smart gadgets, and fitness and health trackers. Voice-based digital assistant Siri carries out a wide range of activities on Apple Watch.
Deeper integration of other functions like NFC-enabled actions, GPRS and other advanced sensors can make wearables powerful and independent smart gadgets, not just secondary accessories to phone, tablet or laptop.
2) Make Micro-Interactions Exciting
Designing an app for wearable devices is not easy because the devices primarily support micro-interactions, and the app has to make these short intuitive actions interesting.
If you have a social networking app that provides an advanced user-experience journey then translating the UX into a small screen strapped on the wrist would be impossible. You can allow the core functions and notifications, but if the user wants to edit his profile or share videos then he will need to use his phone.
Force Touch trackpad and haptic feedback technology in Apple Watch is a highly powerful sensing capability that allows usual gestures like scroll, tap and swipe. In addition to that, a deep press will open sub-menus that help navigate deeper actions in an app, access additional controls on message or select different watch faces.
You will have to design apps that provide a seamless, useful and interesting UX to users where they can accomplish the most important functions and address notifications.
3) Design to Be Minimalistic
Minimal, simple and clean designs work best for wearables.
The best wearable devices like Apple Watch, Fitbit and Garmin are designed for simplicity and strive to make it as easy as possible for users to get information they want and quickly act on it.
Do not create a crowded user interface. Wearable tech is still in its first or second generation and is learning from early adopters and streamlining its design.
Clean and user-friendly design will help apps belong in the limited screen space of wearable gadgets. Do away with unnecessary bells and whistles and focus on what’s important to your user.
Also decide how notifications or alerts are to be presented to the user. Close to 80% of the UX of an app on a wearable comprises of alerts. Vibrations and blinking of the screen are usually used for alerts, but if you overdo them then they can be a source of irritation to the user.
With pressure-sensitive display you can allow user to set notifications to his preference. A single tap can alert to him to an important message or mail, or the screen can light up when there is an incoming call. Suitably designing micro-interactions will be the biggest step towards creating a functional app that works well on wearable devices.
Short and crisp actions will enable better use of app and you have to make sure that users would not have to fiddle with their devices to accomplish important tasks. Wearables are all set to disappear in 2016 and with the advent of native apps, you need to ensure that you provide as seamless and effortless an experience as possible.
4) The Less Clutter, the Better the App
When your app gives out a notification or alert, it will take up about half the screen space of a wearable. Ensure that there will be minimal information on the screen and do not junk the space with unnecessary calls to action. A couple of action items are all that is necessary for a notification. Also as technology advances the user will have the option to opt for more.
App designers need to keep in mind that user will spend little time analyzing an alert or notification and that speed is a critical factor determining an app’s success.
Cards, live tiles or glances are most used for presenting notifications. They are static views on the home screen that feature updates and alerts. The phone’s host app (e.g. Google Now) works in tandem with the app server to provide rich notifications or updated static views whenever user accesses the app.
Contextual services are important for wearable apps because wearable devices are more intimate than smartphones and users expect a far more customized and personal experience from them. It is for this very same reason that the first wearables to taste success were health and activity trackers which provided contextual micro moments to users.
Wearables are all set to go mainstream in the coming year. Smart bras, smart bags and smart bathing suits to mind reading tech, there is no limit to where wearable tech can reach. Wearable apps will soon become ubiquitous with customized-marketing and cutting edge technology, and no company can afford to oversee the immense opportunities the channel presents. So keep in mind the designing basics and stick to the best UX principles to win the battle for your user’s glance or tap.
Jaykishan Panchal is a content marketer at MoveoApps, an apple watch app development company. He enjoys writing about Technology, marketing & industry trends. He is tech enthusiast and love to explore new stuff. You can follow him on Twitter @jaypanchal8.