The Apple iWatch is quickly becoming the next big thing in personal consumer electronics. With its ability to interface with your iPhone and your existing apps, along with its built-in abilities, many people are finding the iWatch to be one of the most dynamic devices Apple has ever made. So, as a programmer, what key factors should you keep in mind when you program for the iWatch?
Even if you’re a veteran programmer, and even if you’re competent in Swift, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically great at working with the iWatch. The reason is the interface. The iWatch is designed to tell a story in a different fashion from your phone, and it can do so independently, or in a complementary style. For many programmers, the concept of designing your phone applications to encompass the content of the iWatch is new and difficult, and storyboarding the user flow when using the iWatch can be challenging, but once you get the hang of it, fascinating to do. To help you stay on task, there are some key factors about the iWatch you should keep in mind when programming. Remember, this is not a static screen, but a dynamic user interface that behaves differently from what you might be used to.
A notification is a high value message displayed to the user by the iWatch. These notifications can come in short and long looks, which are determined by how long the user keeps their arm up to view the watch. In a short look, only pertinent information is displayed to give the user a quick idea of what is going on. In long looks, the user is given more information after a brief period of time. You can then interact with this information in any way you, or the app, sees fit.
Often times, these notifications might be news clips, sports updates, health and fitness information, or even texts. Pretty much anything can be drilled down to a notification, and as your iWatch syncs to your phone, you’re on screen notifications should start to appear instead on your watch.
Long looks can have some pretty neat customizations done by the user. For starters, many people have a sash across the top of their long look notifications. This strip can change colors to match the user’s style. Along with the sash, you can have up to four action buttons accompany a notification to help you make some dynamic choices.
Some notifications are dynamic, and some are static. Regardless of their level of interactivity, they all do the same thing; they tell the user what is happening via a quick and easy interface.
If you work with apps that are high in content, then you’ll want to look into glances. Glances are quick blurbs of information collected from numerous snippets of data from your apps. In high reading contexts, a glance can be interesting, but it shouldn’t be considered a complete replacement for the app itself. Glances are also not recommended as a way to launch apps, as the apps are typically too large for the iWatch. After all, there’s a reason you’re glancing.
As a programmer, consider how much information is too much. Glances are supposed to be just that, and if you try to overload the reader with too much information, you’re likely to turn them off to using your apps.
When programming glances, keep your text large, clear, and short, as in the example from BMW above. Make sure all your text is left-aligned, and above all, keep everything consistent.
This is one of the more challenging aspects of iWatch application design. You want to make your app easy to read and have it flow well, but what’s the best way to perform navigation? In the iWatch apps that you’ll run into, there are two primary means of navigation that people find quick and easy. The first is page navigation. This is where each page is displayed as a flat object, and the user scrolls up and down through the content.
The second type of navigation is Hierarchical, where the pages are a bit more dynamic. This is where a new page appears over an old one just by tapping on the screen. While neat, this can quickly get confusing for the reader, and is not recommended for larger, more involved apps.
There’s no one right way to do navigation. It really depends on your sense of flow and the level of content your app provides. When choosing how to interface with the info and how much is too much, use your better judgment.
A modal sheet is a full screen display that goes over your app. Its purpose is to provide the user with information and to give them a choice. It is customary in most apps to have the Close, Back or Cancel button appear in the top left corner, and it is also considered good form to have a secondary option in a modal box, so users don’t feel pigeonholed.
Handoff is a quick way to continue what you were doing on your iWatch and send it to your phone. With a quick swipe up, you can send your information to a synced phone and continue in a more robust interface from that point forward. Most apps that allow for data to sync between the two devices will support the hand off feature.
As more and more people start to use the iWatch, more uses for its applications will appear. Also, as iPhones continue to become more advanced, we will see more linked apps appear in the near future. With the advances in technology and the ease of programming for the iWatch, there’s truly no telling just how far you can take your app experience for the Apple iWatch.