How to Design Wearable Apps for Your Users


Since wearables have hit the markets the whole tech and fashion industry has been trying to design hardware and software to amplify user experience.  An industry leader like Sony is crowd funding Wena  in a bid to make appealing hardware for the fashion conscious. Aesthetics put aside, the hardware bits are easy to cover but building functionality design that is cognitive and intuitive, is the real challenge.
As an app development company we have had our eyes glued to the developments for wearables and wearable apps as mobility solutions. We learn that the design principles remain the same, for any application  on any device.
As the design maestro Don Norman quotes  in his book ‘The Design of Everyday Things’  :

Two of the most important characteristics of good design are discoverability and understanding. – Don Norman

But with every device the difference in user interaction leads to difference in user behavior. Understanding this difference is the first step to mastering UX . Understanding the wearable devices is very important to discuss wearable apps and the designing that goes into these apps.

What are the kind of apps and mobile connectivity solutions that can be built for these devices?

  • Standalone Wearable Apps: The Apps that run functionalities on the wearable device itself are standalone wearable apps.
  • The Compatible Apps: These apps are the apps on the connecting devices that extract and send data from one device to another.
  • Push notifications for connecting Apps.
  • Cards for static screens and layouts.Of the different apps that can be built for wearables, the wearable apps are a real test of design abilities.
    The screen sizes have reduced with the wearable apps and hence the design challenges including discoverability and usability have to be handled with a slightly different approach than the regular mobile devices. The secret sauce to meet this challenges is the overall compatibility of the layout, the design, the app functionality and the processing ability of the device and of course, device to device connectivity. Phew! And you thought making an app for wearables is easy!Now That we have an understanding of what is expected of a wearable app, we’ll discuss the other key  design principle in detail; Discoverability.
    The ease of being able to locate an element on an interface is discoverability. Locating the CTA button, a navigation button, the next step to interact with the device falls under discoverability . Equal discoverability for all elements is  a myth, says Scott Berken. With wearables, this statement is more than just a fact, it’s an exercise in prioritizing what to make discoverable on the smaller screens.

    Equal Discoverability is a myth  – Scott Berken

  • A picture of wearable app wena

    Wena- Wearable Apps that could be fashionable

    Here are a few tricks to prioritize the same.

    Just in Time UX Features on Wearable Apps:

    Remember the iPad 3 and how it included Just in Time; the screens that wouldn’t be visible all the time but intuitively appear when you needed them to?
    This is a brilliant example of how to understand and adapt to user behaviour. With the limited space on wearable screens you cannot always show everything simultaneously, but if you can read the user’s need you can delight them. For example, sensing when the user turns his wrist to look for an update on time or notifications, the device can pop them up just in time.
    Or if the user is navigating and the device shows them a re-centred map view as soon as they tap on the screen. Wearables demand this kind of advanced UI and UX abilities.

    Sneak Peek on the Screen in Wearables:

    Another one from the Apple labs, a little sneak peek of a scroll bar or a small arrow that points to the next page. The screen features can sometimes act as bread crumbs and help the user interact smoothly with the onscreen elements and the expected on screen elements as well.

    Customize your Notifications for Wearables Apps:

    Implementing UX understanding into notifications is important, the updates determine user retention and engagement for your wearable app. There are three steps to any notification:
    1. The Push
    The reader will recognize the update sent on the device. Notifying features such lighting up screens, a buzz or a vibration or a ping on the device.
    2. The Comprehension
    Keep notifications short and straight forward on all devices but compact especially for wearables, you don’t want to crowd the user’s screen with characters. We don’t want to send him in a tizzy with a seeming overload of information in a push notification!
    3. The Interaction
    Finally how easily can your user interact with your notification; can he swipe it off in a single go? Can he read a text in one tap? Minimize the user’s effort, nobody wants to keep tapping and touching their smart wear to accomplish a small task. It’s called smart wear for a good reason. Preserve that reason!
    Our in-house experts have covered these basics in the UX for wearable apps. Stay tuned for more from mTraction enterprise for more elements of design and how to incorporate that in your app interfaces. Contact Us to know more.


How to Design Wearable Apps for Your Users

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