6 Best Practice Tips for Smart Watch Developers
The tech giant's latest addition to its family was launched at the end of April and according to CEO Tim Cook is proving to be a massive hit with developers. But what key design guidelines should devs practise to ensure their Watch apps are hitting the mark?
While Apple has been coy about the actual number of watches it's sold to date, Cook has been more than happy to extol the number of apps that were available at launch - 3,000 compared to the first iPhone launch which only had 500 (though it should be pointed out that there was no actual app store at that time) while there were 1,000 apps in place for the launch of the first gen iPad.
So with the Apple Watch marketplace already blossoming, it's now even more critical that developers consider how to make their apps stand out from the competition. While innovation and genuine functionality are obviously key, one essential area is mastering the basic design requirements for the unique platform to ensure the best usability and performance experience for users:
1. Be Succinct
Wearers don't want to sit there fiddling with their wrists so whatever your app's functionality, ensure that it is Actionable Notification- and Glance-friendly - it's how most users interact with their Watches. If they are required to boot up your app each and every time, their patience will soon wane.
2. Be Considerate
While your focus should be on using Notifications/Glance where possible, do ensure that your app isn't constantly pushing updates at users to the point that they simply mute your app because it won't shut up. There's a balance to be found - do consider full user testing for your app before releasing it into the wild.
3. Be Economical
Your drive for effortlessness should be reflected by your app's levels of hierarchy; users don't want to move down through level after level when engaging with your Watch app. Better to keep your app's offering streamlined and focused and if users want to dig deeper, they can be handed-off to iOS devices with more suitable screen estate sizes.
4. Be Bold
Ensure graphic-rich apps feature imagery that is large enough to be seen at a glance and is high contrast so users can easily take in or read what's being displayed. Conversely, consider reducing the use of dominant bright colours if possible so your app doesn't hammer the Watch's already restrictive battery life. Yes, it's a fine line to walk.
5. Be Aware
... that it takes two to tango on the Apple Watch - the watch itself plus the iPhone. It is essential that the smartphone variant of your app is as optimised to the iPhone as the Watch's app is to the wearable. That shouldn't mean simply aping the Watch app's functionality on the iPhone either or else you'll look, well, cheap. Instead, offer added functionality to ensure the user enjoys a truly optimised and rounded experience whatever the platform.
6. Be Punctual
Much has been made of Apple's 'ten-second use' rule to ensure the Watch is used in the right way by wearers. This line though has been crossed by games in particular where a 5-15 second burst is deemed acceptable. Wherever you can, the rule of thumb should be to keep the interaction times as low as possible - some recommend keeping them down to as little as two seconds or under.
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