Designing apps for Apple Watch is the new design challenge for iOS designers and developers because the smaller screen of this new platform has more constraints for user interaction. The Apple Watch is still a new and challenging frontier that requires having in-depth knowledge of the dynamics and visual challenges of creating a winning user experience.
Basic Aspects of Apple Watch UI
It is important to know that most Apple Watch apps are merely slimmer, slicker, and in some cases stripped down versions of traditional iOS apps made for iPhone and iPad devices. Most Apple Watch apps are far from independent, and they only work in conjunction with their mobile apps that are used in the connected iPhone or iPad.
WatchKit is the framework provided by Apple to manage this connection between an Apple Watch app and its iPhone counterpart. WatchKit library provides all necessary coding tools for developing third party apps for the Apple Watch. But an app developed on a WatchKit extension cannot be independent, and it is primarily managed by the user from the connected iPhone or iPad device. So the activities of Apple Watch apps are limited to only displaying information and recording the interactions made through the device.
Design for the Apple Watch Real Estate
There is a wide range of Photoshop resources provided by Apple that can help with prototyping user interfaces. Obviously, this prototyping simplifies the design process to a great extent. There are few constraints, like the unavailability of the affordance of screen size that you enjoy with iPhone and iPad. With a smaller screen size, using space wisely becomes more important. Here are a few basic principles to consider when designing a user friendly interface on the Apple Watch:
UI Controls: When providing UI controls like buttons, elements stacked horizontally should be limited to a maximum of three. This facilitates easy tapping on each element. Using icons is great way to accomplish this, and Apple advocates using them as well.
Circular Buttons and Icons: For clickable buttons with only a fingertip, circular sized buttons are ideal. They are also more scalable and are likely to take up less space than square ones.
Different Image Sizes: Offering the same image on both the iPhone and Apple Watch can cause problems for users, particularly in the smaller watch screen. Always provide different sizes, dimensions, and screen resolutions for the images on both devices.
Keep the Design Simple
The most important aspect of all is that Apple Watch apps need have a simple design, even simpler than you might expect. There is not a large area to work with, so simplicity is going to be the key to ensure ease of use.
Apple Watch has introduced a new approach called glances, which offers a quick, simple view of the most relevant content of the app. Naturally, the app design elements must correspond to this demand of simplicity. More than just stunning design, it is important to ensure usefulness and quick access to content. All elements, from appropriate font and image size to correct contrast and typography, help to enhance the design. To address the size constraint, many experts recommend designing primarily for the 38mm model instead of the larger 42mm model. The philosophy behind this emphasis on smaller size is simple: it is harder to shrink down than scale up when required.
For the optimized app UI interface, designers need to consider a few steps. First, set an objective to make the whole app UI screen interactive and selectable. Second, use the space effectively to leave room for touch input. Third, get rid of excess style and navigation elements in app UI to make the design simple.
Design Wrist Centric
Why use Apple Watch? Because with a simple turn of the wrist users can view their necessary app content and can respond when needed without actually taking their iPhone out.So even though the Apple Watch apps by and large duplicate the functions and contents of the apps already on the user’s iPhone, these apps deliver them the uninterrupted ease of access and response in the same way they would look at the time on a wrist watch.
While developing apps for Apple Watch, app developers should address this wrist centric design. Is the app perfectly glanceable, just like looking at the time on the watch? Can the user quickly find the required content and see any message on the watch screen? Now the wrist can let you stay connected with the web, your messaging, and your notifications all the time.
Design Icons that Represent your Brand
Apple Watch app icons displayed on the homescreen are circular in shape and can vary by size. While designing the icons, remember that rectangle shaped icons will automatically be stripped down to a round shape, and this can lead to losing the typographic element or compromising the look of your icons. So always design the icon with a circular shape in mind.
Besides size and shape of the icon, the most important aspect is the visual appeal and quality. Obviously, you cannot make the design appealing to all, but by sticking to your brand color and by maintaining an optimum contrast, you can make impressive icons for this small screen device. To optimize the design elements, ensure a clutter free design that makes everything noticeable at a glance.
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