​Designing For The Future Of Wearable Devices

How can we design apps for our wrists?


Wearable technology is still very much in its infancy.

We have seen quite a few attempts at breaking the mould with companies such as Samsung, Apple and Google all trying to make the industry defining product. Apple’s Apple Watch is the one which many still believe will define the industry moving forward, but having the hardware alone is not going to be the element that makes the major difference when it comes to the success of a device.

The success of a device today often comes down to the variety and quality of the apps that can be used with it.

When we saw the rise in tablet computers a few years ago, this switch was relatively simple. In many cases it was simply a case of taking the apps that were available on smartphones and making them larger. With wearable technology, each app needs to have a total rethink about their purpose and whether they even need to have an app at all.

Even the companies who need to have an app will need to completely rethink the way that people interact with it.

Think about how you use Facebook at the moment, would it be possible to do everything on a watch?

You would still want to see your notifications, but are you going to have any inclination to comment on a photo or reply to a post through it? I would argue that you wouldn’t.

According to Appster who consult on app design, many of the companies who are thinking of building apps have not considered this and are only doing so because they think that it would be cool, rather than having any kind of business sense. It is like anything, where certain technologies are always going to be better for certain tasks.

Take a simple task's use on a desktop, tablet and mobile. If you were writing a report, you want to do this on a desktop. If you want to take a photo to accompany the report, you would use your mobile. If you wanted to proof the report and digitally highlight potential mistakes, you would want to use your tablet.

So when designing for a wearable device companies need to go back to the basics and think about what their customers need and how a wearable can help with this.

It is also worth remembering that it lacks a certain degree of privacy that other devices can. If you get a message on it do you want everybody around you having the ability to read it? With a phone you could notice a buzz in your pocket then wait to read it when there isn’t somebody looking over your shoulder. On the other hand, you do not want to make it complicated to read the message on the watch, needing to unlock it with a code or make the writing so small that you need to hold it close to your face.

The simple way to look at the design is how Apple did when they became successful with the original iPod, the idea of what can be removed rather than what can be added.

Take away all the fluff of what you are offering and give it to your customers in the purest form of what they need and what you provide. If you are linking them to others, how can they do this without needing to speak into the screen or type? If they need to know the location of something how can you make details large enough to accurately show the way but without making it too close that they can’t see ahead of them?

From here the more complex elements of an app can be added. It is the same process that Evernote used when they initially created their mobile apps. They created them to be robust and useable, then added the frills later.

The design of applications on these kind of devices is always going to be a challenge as it means that we are going to be looking at how we interact with technology in a totally new way. We are going to see several failures before we get to a stage where the formula has been perfected.


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