Top 10 Tips for Building an Apple Watch App

Unless you’ve been living under a rock then you already know about the Apple Watch, have ordered one or your wearing one right now. At the moment I’ve been getting my head around how WatchKit apps will work for my the apps of my clients. The truth be told is that not all apps need a WatchKit component, but many do.

After using an Apple Watch in real, one thing I noticed was the inability to edit calendar events, huh? You can add them but you can’t edit them. Actually in regards to most of the built in apps, there isn’t alot of editing operations. After a lengthy conversation with a product manager at Apple, Apple see’s the Watch primarily being used for super super short intervals, 3-5 seconds. Quickly reading an email or replying to a text message. So essentially we need to keep this in mind when we develop any Watch Apps.

1. Re-think your design from the ground app, don’t just take your Phone app and the images from that app and display it on the watch.

2. Five-Ten Seconds is the amount of time you should keep a users attention, anything more and they should pull their phone out.

3. Bluetooth is slow, and even slower on the device. You need to keep everything lean, compress images, keep images the exact size and no bigger, only update items that have changed (if you even need to). Do you need to upload images or can you use text?

4. Keep is simple, only show the exact data a user needs. If for example your using TripAdvisor, what does the user need to see? The rating, the name and address maybe one more thing, no need to overload the screen you’ve only got 5 seconds anyway.

5. The watch is slow and your app needs to be fast. Lazy-Load for fast startup and then background pre-load where possible, cache where possible, show splash/loading screens. Also another reason to use less content in your apps.

6. Use hand off, this is essential, if you’ve given a user a notification and they jump into your watch app it’s likely they might want to continue the action in further detail on their device. An example would be a user looking at a email and might want to reply on the phone, when the user opens their phone then it must deep link into the mail app with the email open (it already does this btw). This is all available to you as a developer via the WKInterfaceController.

7. Let the iPhone do the work. Communication between your iPhone app and watch app is simple, so don’t be afraid to pass tasks/operations back to the phone.

8. Use dictation – User input is a keystone of useful applications, so while you’ve only got a ‘short time’ with the user it’s still possible to get some input.

9. You only have 10 UI elements in Total, but they can be deeply nested and can be used to create advanced views.

10. Get a Watch and use it. You can’t expect that you’ll be able to create a good user experience unless you live the same user experience. As the saying goes eat your own dog food.

The Apple watch is only a first release product, it’s just a given that the apps and device aren’t going to be overly refined but it’s definitely a glimpse into the future. Oh and FYI it’s not called a iWatch, it’s not, so please don’t call it a iWatch.

Please drop me an email if you have any questions or queries about the Apple Watch, I’m always keen to help people.





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