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Author's profile photo Ian Thain

The Final UX frontier? Watch and find out!

Many years ago I took the leap from Desktop based GUI apps to Mobile. In one fail swoop I had to rewire my development and design brain to take on a smaller paradigm, not only in processing power and storage but data, graphical design and especially user interaction. It sounds hard, but never loosing sight of the users needs and experience with mobile devices, became second nature. The key was synchronising and presenting the data that was needed by the mobile user, to perform the tasks required.

Now with wearable technology coming main stream, with the Apple Watch, it is probably the final UX frontier that will need to be crossed. Let us face it, shrinking down an app from a screen the size of the current iPhone to an Apple Watch is going to be impossible for some mobile apps. Currently Apple have announced that the screens for Apple Watch will come in two sizes, 38mm & 42mm and obviously the smaller one will have less ‘face’ real-estate (not screen) than the other and even the larger one will be about a third than that of an iPhone 4S or less.

*On iOS devices developers have always been advised to use ‘Hit Targets’ of about 44×44 pixels for UI elements, that interact with touch and I can assume that this would be no different for the Apple Watch… remember you will be still using the same input device… your fingertip!

This is why Apple have a number of ways to interact with Apps on the iPhone via the Apple Watch. One of which is something that I think will be the way ahead for most… ‘Glances’ I just love ‘glance technology’ and I have experienced it for a year now using the Metawatch Strata, which I invested in via KickStarter. Take it from me, the ability to leave your iPhone in your pocket, bag or close around you and still view your apps data, on your wrist, is cool! For the Apple Watch, Glances allows a summarization of your apps data in one concise face. The next way to interact is Actionable Notifications, from your app on your iPhone to your Apple Watch, which will be pretty simple for some apps. The last and hardest interaction, will be apps built to extend to Apple Watch with WatchKit, as this framework will supply a limited number of controls and application interactions unique to Apple Watch, on top of and taking into account the limited face size on the watch itself.

So going forward into this brave new Apple Watch World of Apps, I think there are a number of apps that will be suited to take advantage of this newest personal and wearable devices… Outside of ‘Glances’ themselves, which present a view of key app information, the lowest hanging fruit would be… the apps with Notifications. Those are the ones that receive push notifications or create local notifications on the iPhone, that can just propagate them to the Apple Watch with Actionable Notiifcations. The next would be apps that request a simple answer or interaction, such as a Vacation or PO approval app and finally and probably the hardest to get a great user experience, will be apps that take simple inputs of approximately 6 ‘Hit Targets’ or less with simple inputs selectable from data driven controls. I say 6 ‘Hit Targets’ or less, due to the what I mentioned above *. (I am imagining that in a maximum 2 x 3 matrix).

I believe the Final UX frontier will be creating an experience for inputting on such a device as an Apple Watch. An experience that will have to be slick, easy, fast and unobtrousive, else you might as well get the iPhone from your pocket and go a little up scale with more screen real-estate etc. Saying that, this may even be a real life scenario using Apple’s ‘Handoff’ technology, where apps that have initial interaction started on the Apple Watch will hand-off seamlessly to the app on the iPhone.. Cool!

I can’t wait to see what the developers create!

Please follow me on Twitter @ithain

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