Five Things You Must Know Before Designing for Wearables

Posted by Christina James on September 6th, 2022

Wearables are a popular trend in the tech world today. From smartwatches to fitness trackers, smart glasses, hearables and a multitude of other devices, wearables are swamping the market. The design of the wearables is an immediate factor that makes them attractive and usable. But given the characteristics of wearables like small screen space, reduced information density and their different use cases, designing for them is quite a challenge. 

Taking a design approach similar to mobile apps/web apps for wearable devices is not recommended as it fails to consider the myriad of factors that are unique to wearables. Here, we take a look at five things that a UI UX design agency must consider when working on a wearable design. 

Don’t Compromise on Simplicity

Simplicity is an essential consideration in all digital designs, but its importance is all the more in wearable design. Since these devices have a limited space and are designed for lightweight interactions, compromising on simplicity is a big no. To maintain simplicity in the design, remember the following points. 

  • Never overload the wearable interface with information. Provide only the right information that people would need to complete their tasks. 

  • Keep interactions to a minimum and help users take actions quickly and intuitively. 

  • Focus on single use-cases and help users do one thing at a time without distracting them. 

Be Easily Fathomable

A major reason why people use wearables is that they are small and are easily portable. With a quick glance at their wearable device, people want to get whatever information they are looking for. That is, within short moments of interaction, the device should convey required data to users. 

To provide information in such an easily fathomable way, designers need to understand what exactly the users hopes to see at specific instances. On this understanding, they need to build the interface in a graphically rich way rather than filling it with text. Ideally, users should be able to grasp information on a smartwatch display in less than 5 seconds – so that’s how efficient it should be! 

Take a Minimalist Approach

Minimalist design is ideal for wearables given their size and use cases. Minimalism brings clarity to the designs and ensures usability. Apply minimalism throughout the design, from colors to typography and layout. 

When using colors, consider the real-world interactions that users will have and set the contrast accordingly. The design should be legible and clear at all times. For typography, choose a font that is readable and simple. Give adjustable font sizes and discourage small fonts. Moreover, find a proper balance in spacing as too much space will take up extra room and too little will make the interface look cluttered. 

Be Mindful of Notifications

As wearables are located on the human body, notifications can entirely ruin the user experience if not handled properly. The device buzzing against users’ skin can easily distract them. So, while designing notifications for wearables, keep the following things in mind.  

  • Keep the number of notifications to a minimum so that the device doesn't always vibrate on the users’ skin. 

  • Provide the right notifications at the right time to enhance the user experience and improve the value of the messages. 

  • Allow the users to customize the notifications settings according to their preferences, such as whether it is short vibration, long vibration, or screen glow and so on. 

Make Use of Non-Visual Interactions 

Due to the nature of wearables, it is a good practice to implement non-visual interactions in the design rather than just visual interactions. This holds especially true for smartwatch design. The communication could be through sound, vibrations or means other than just touch. To schedule activities or compose messages, a voice input would be more appropriate than typing. Similarly, to convey information like a goal achieved, a vibration would serve the purpose more effectively. 

Wrapping Up

Though wearables is a trendy technology, it's best to keep its design simple and basic. Do not fear that it will make the device boring or mundane. To build wearables that work, the designs must be effective and straightforward. Exploring creativity through visuals work well on mobile/web apps, but in the case of wearables, sticking to conventions and thinking from the fundamental level is the key to success.

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Christina James

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Christina James
Joined: November 28th, 2019
Articles Posted: 38

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