5 Tips for Designing a Successful Apple Watch App

Posted by Davzo Inc

Posted in Design

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Ever mindful of the need to improve productivity in our lives, Apple launched their latest piece of technology, the Apple Watch, in April 2015. An intriguing piece of wearable technology, the Apple Watch promises to bring a more intimate dimension to productivity with levels of accessibility not previously seen.

In the first five months of the Apple Watch’s life it’s managed to generate around $1.7 billion in sales revenues, so you don’t have to be a financial genius to see that the wearable tech market is packed full of potential. And, as with all smart devices, the accompanying apps can be a highly lucrative niche.

Naturally, the hype around any new Apple device means that many developers rush their apps out early in order to harness some of that early buzz. However, this has led to a glut of disappointing apps which have failed to convince consumers to dig into their back pocket. Luckily, this failure means that it’s the perfect time to design that killer Apple Watch app and take a big bite into the market.

Due to the small size of the Apple Watch (available in 38mm or 42mm versions) developers are facing a whole new range of constraints not present in other Apple devices e.g. iPhone, iPad etc. However, designing a successful Apple Watch app is more than possible and we’re going to take you through 5 tips on how to achieve this.

1. Choose the Right Visual Qualities

The first thing that stands out about the Apple Watch is its black background. The aim of this background is to help the display blend in the bezel and give the illusion of a larger screen. It’s a canny move on Apple’s part and makes for a striking aesthetic.

And, of course, this black background is just crying out for a palette bursting with fluorescent and bright colors to help apps stand out and be noticed. This goes against the grain of recent flat design trends which have called for more pastel coloring, so it’s crucial that you stick to the neon end of the spectrum when designing your Apple Watch apps.

Size, obviously, is going to be incredibly restricted when compared to something such as the iPhone 6’s 4.7” screen. However, Apple are world renowned for their ability to construct incredibly intuitive and simple to use software, so why not investigate how the master does it? You’re going to do yourself a lot of favors by studying Apple’s own apps for the watch to understand exactly what the visual capabilities and limitations are.

2. Incorporate the New Methods of Interaction

You’re probably used to swiping and tapping on your Apple devices to activate what you need in the simplest manner possible, but the Apple Watch’s design requires new, innovative methods of interaction to open up accessibility.

Swiping on such a small screen means that it’s very easy for content to be obscured by that eager finger of yours, so Apple have introduced the ‘digital crown’ to help you scroll clearly through all available content. Incorporating this into you app will ensure you manage to engage visitors rather than have them swiping for the uninstall option!

And then there’s the added intelligence of the ‘force touch’ which allows the Apple Watch to distinguish between a press and a tap. A press will produce a menu containing options relevant to the on screen content and a tap will activate any on screen icons. This dual approach allows you to design less cluttered screens and interfaces which keep matters simple and don’t frustrate time conscious consumers.

3. Don’t Port your Smartphone App to the Apple Watch

A piece of technology which fits on the wrist is going to be operating in a completely different environment to one that lives in the vast expanses of your hands. The most striking difference between the two landscapes is that the Apple Watch only really gives you the option of using one hand.

Now, the biggest impact this has on your design efforts is that you need to take your user interface back to the drawing board. Sure, you can take the easy route and create yourself the minimal amount of work by transporting an app meant for the iPhone into the Apple Watch, but consumers will barely be able to use it. All they’re going to want to do is send it straight to the trashcan.

And we don’t want your efforts to end up in the trashcan, so we can’t stress enough that, no matter how successful your smartphone or tablet app, you need to completely rethink its design to fire on all cylinders from the wrist.

4. Embrace Simplicity

One of the key aims of the Apple Watch is to provide vital information to its wearer, but in a manner which isn’t obstructed by unnecessary bells and whistles.

You’re probably aware by now that the size of the Apple Watch face is a major obstacle when it comes to aesthetic flourishes. Although this can be viewed as a negative in terms of visual appeal, the simplicity it demands can actually operate as a highly powerful positive.

By breaking down the core concept of your app to its basics, you’re left with a set of elements which can communicate everything you need with just one quick glance at the wrist. It may not be easy to strip certain features out of your app, but in the long run it’s going to lead to a much more efficient app which allows users to interact with it rather than digging into their pocket every five minutes for their iPhone.

5. Understand the Need for Quick Performance

The Apple Watch isn’t something that consumers want to be spending very long on, it’s more an indicator of what’s happening in your life and what you need to be doing next.

By crafting the Apple Watch in this regard, Apple are spelling out the importance of time to developers for the device. It’s a device designed to be used on the move, so owners aren’t going to be happy twiddling their thumbs waiting for the necessary information to load up.

And, yes, we completely understand that certain types of content e.g. maps and graphics aren’t going to load up in the blink of the eye. However, it’s possible to integrate these resource rich features into you app with a little bit of cunning.

For example, progressive loading can be used to display light content first and, as the owner digests this, more heavy content such as rich graphics can be loading off screen. By ordering your content in the right order you can ensure consumers don’t become instantly discouraged by a loading screen.

A Successful App is Easily Achievable

It may feel daunting entering this new and uncertain landscape of wearable technology, but the potential for creating awesome Apple Watch apps and achieving high sales figures are not impossible.

Key to success in both these areas, though, requires re-educating yourself on the requisite needs generated by the unique design of the Apple Watch. The size of the Apple Watch is perhaps the most challenging factor in designing apps for it, but by understanding this new environment and following our 5 tips you’ll find it becomes much easier.

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