How to Best Make Apps for the Apple Watch: Design Tips
This is indeed an exciting time to be a mobile app developer: Apple Watch is shipping on the 24th of April, and as a designer or developer, if you’re not already working hard on the first generation of Apple Watch apps, you are seriously missing out.
We’re looking at a much more compact screen size, always-on-the-wrist function, and so many interesting ways to interact. Creating a stunning app that awes and delights users is going to require some new design methods.
Although Apple Watch is currently designed to work with iPhones, and development is limited to widgets, actionable notifications and remote views only, there is plenty of potential in the mix.
Incorporate these principles into your design philosophy to make breath-taking Apple Watch apps.
1. Practice Discretion and Keep it Short
An intimate device like Apple Watch should have interactions that look only like notifications rather than interruptions. A device that’s so visible all the time should have very discreet interactions. The information you’re presenting should never come off as pushy.
Content such as text and graphic elements should be kept to a minimum – you don’t want it to clutter up the entire screen. Keep in mind though you can use the screen from edge to edge so try to see it in terms of characters instead of words.
The goal here is to display relevant and impactful content which users can comprehend in a second or two by merely glancing at their wrists.
2. High Contrast Works Well
Always avoid bright colors and maintain a good contrasting balance between your app’s text and background. Select appropriate colors that attract users to your app or brand, while using black backgrounds.
Black truly is an ideal background tone for Apple Watch since it merges with the bevel edges found on the device. An added bonus: it also offers excellent legibility to the app’s text. The app will come out looking fresh and elegant, a complete win-win for you as well as your users.
3. Navigation – Showcase Simplicity
The current Watchkit SDK lets you work with navigation that’s built around tapping and swiping. Unfortunately, you can’t combine both these features and only one can be used. The pressure-sensitive Force Touch differentiates between the two.
So your goal as a designer/developer is to aim for navigation that’s simple yet functional. Use Digital Crown to aid in swifter navigation. It conveniently lets users zoom in/out, scroll, go to the home screen or enter data. Therefore, have a navigation layout that’s centered around this technology as you’ll want your users to see more, while interacting less.
4. Keep Menus to a Minimum
Given the small screen dimensions of Apple Watch, you can’t cram in too many menus. Also bear in mind that users may not be very keen on repeatedly using gestures to go back and forth just to complete an action.
Go compact: use menus sparingly and only when they are absolutely needed. Use the 1-4 action rule: limit your actions to a maximum of 4, on any given screen. Also, getting rid of scrolling and hierarchical menus is a good idea.
5. Custom Animations
At the heart of Apple Watch navigation are animations. Even though you don’t get to create detailed animations as you do with the iPad or iPhone, you can still customize animations according to your app.
Simply identify the main actions users might take while using your app and create unique custom animations to create a more engaging experience for them.
6. Easily Identifiable Icons
Home screen icons that are circular work best on the Apple Watch interface. Your app’s original design might be square-shaped, which works great for smartphones, but you need to comply with Apple’s guidelines and make a circular version of it.
Now, the icons need to be recognizable which is crucial. The key graphic elements and color palette need to be the same and you need to eliminate text altogether. Compact icons are ideal, which your users can easily relate to. The size of your icon comes into play as well and Apple has provided a reference table for this.
What exciting possibilities do you foresee with the introduction of Apple Watch? Discuss away in the comments below. Go ahead and contact our mobile app developers to talk about what Apple Watch could mean for your brand.