Apple Watch UX brings few app developers
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Published on July 21, 2015
The Apple Watch UX is unique, but in what may become an endless cycle, the Watch has not been attracting many apps from developers, and the lack of apps may be one of the reasons that it isn’t selling at a higher rate. If the slow rate of sales keeps up, it is unlikely to attract many new application developers as they consider not just how, but whether to create a UX for Apple Watch apps.
From a user experience perspective, one reason the Apple Watch is seeing such slow sales is because it’s difficult for users to understand what problems, if any, it solves. Simply put, why is it needed and what is it best at delivering for the user. These are the cornerstones of any UX. The fit, finish, polish, and aesthetics may be fantastic, but they become irrelevant if users can’t understand what it will do for them and how it can be useful.
The UX questions about the Apple Watch are not just for end-users, as questions extend to many of the most prominent technology firms whom Apple would want to have create apps for the watch. Facebook is a good example of these app developers that Apple would like to have create an app for the Apple Watch. The person at Facebook who would likely need to be convinced to create an app for the Apple Watch is Adam Mosseri, and he isn’t racing to build an app. He recently stated that he couldn’t think of a way to put all the functionality a user would want into the Apple Watch to make a UX that is useful, and wouldn’t make the user want to switch to a larger screen device.
Along with UX concerns about the size of the form-factor of the Apple Watch, developers originally were limited in the functionality they could build into an app. Most functions needed to be performed on a tethered iPhone, and then sent to the Watch from the phone, instead of being created and managed on the Watch itself. Things like the Taptic Engine and sensors were unavailable to third-party app developers, making the Watch even less useful. These original limitations have been somewhat loosened in the most recent Apple Watch SDK, but there hasn’t been a rush to create apps for the Watch among developers.
The native Apple Watch UX is pretty unusual, and a challenge for UX designers. In addition to the limitations for what can be programmed natively on the watch, there are also four separate notification types. When deciding to push a notification to a user, the UX designer needs to decide whether the Apple Watch notification should be a glance notification, or a short-look, a long-look, or a pop-up. Additionally, there are three different touch interfaces that a UX designer needs to address, as the Digital Crown and Force Touch interface join the more traditional touch-screen interface. Yet despite these three interface options, much interaction uses Siri, which is far from perfect. Imagine if the UX of the iPhone required most interactions be made using Siri, or if Microsoft starting requiring their counterpart, Cortana, to be used to interact with their Windows devices. The user experience becomes less than ideal.
While the currently available 7,000 apps for the Apple Watch may appear to be a sizable number, it’s less than one percent of the apps available for the iPad and iPhone, which have more than 500,000 available apps. While the iPad and iPhone each sold more than 100 million in their first two and three years, respectively, the Apple Watch appears likely to not reach even a quarter of these numbers, and Apple has indicated that they won’t release sales volume of the watch, and will bundle it in with other items, showing even less confidence in the sales of its most recent product.
The UX classes and workshops at American Graphics Institute cover many of the principles that help organizations and teams avoid the challenges that the Apple Watch UX is currently facing. With a well-planned user experience, groups of designers, developers, business analysts and product managers can create apps, websites, and devices that are useful, meet user’s needs and can even be fun to use.
About the author
Jennifer Smith is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.
Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.