Consumers are open to new form factors, new device types, and cloud-connected services, and wearables are among them. Yet, wearable devices are not yet mainstream: not everyone feels the need or sees the value. Consumer adoption requires a product vision driven by the utility — and the fashion — afforded by modern wearables.
Wearable products are sold on retail shelves and their promise has to be conveyed simply and singularly. User needs and wants must be expressed as a desirable product.
While the singularity of a product’s promise is paramount, wearable devices live on the internet of things. More than just performing standalone functions, users expect they will engage in an ecosystem of other connected devices. When designed with services — not just technologies — in mind, the wearable device can become a component of a service. The risk is that adding connected data services muddies the ultimate product promise, leaving would-be users confused as to the real value. Yet, done well, the result can be a connected experience that surrounds a user in their multiple daily contexts and seamlessly augments other smart devices.
Some wearables should be worn discreetly: passively sensing location, or steps taken, or heart rate data. This data is pushed to the cloud where it can be aggregated into insights. The design and presentation of those insights is critical to ensure wearables aren’t just collecting a mess of metrics.
We design wearable interfaces by applying service design, user interface design and usability principles. We envision the wearable, not as a product on a shelf, but as a service with all of the touchpoints involved, flowing from a wearable to other cloud-connected devices and returning back to the user as insights and augments that improve lives.
We design for various wearable and connected device experiences
Design considerations for smartwatches and micro-screen devices:
_ Dedicate micro-screens to immersive experiences and tasks: Often wearable experiences are sustained activities but interacting with the device should be quick, not deep. Aim for quick reference, not deep input.
_ Give it glance-ability: Display info in adequately large fonts, not fussy or small details. High contrast is best.
_ Unify the experience with simplicity: Simple button layouts and focused interfaces enable fast interaction.
_ Put hardware to work: Hardware buttons should be few and simple, but invaluable. Decide which core function(s) should work sightlessly.
_ Wearables make a personal statement: Don’t underestimate the role of fashion in consumer product choice. Digital themes should be user-customizable.