5 Things to Take Care Of While Designing Wearable Apps

Just Total Tech
20 Jan 2016

Gone are the days when companies had to dwell on developing apps for nothing but smartphones. Indeed, the advent of wearable technology has made easier for us to witness the digital transition happening. With the growing number of digital platforms with each passing year, Retail giants, Airlines and Banks are now focused on reaching out to their customers exactly where they are willing to explore and settle down. This, indeed, has come forth as a challenge for the companies to grow and face this ever challenging market.

Let’s face the facts. It is said that 2016 is going to be the year of wearables. Over and above that, Forrester Research, the marketing research firm has noted that, in this new era of computing, software will have profound effects on the way consumers engage with wearable computers. Whereas, as per the report generated by IDC (International Data Corporation), wearable activity trackers which fall in basic wearables category are growing by 76% year-over-year, while smart wearables like smart watches are flourishing at a whopping 683%.

Let’s have a look at this critical chart:

That said, it is evident that wearable hardware has always found a secure place in the limelight, though Forrester mentions that wearable apps are the key to helping companies create a connection with their customers and thereby the ability to analyze big data generated from wearables.

With all the tech giants like Google, Apple, Samsung and Facebook investing hefty dollars into wearables, we are already convinced that smart wearable electronics showcase a constructive shift in the computing model. However, the question is how would you manage to enter this emergent market developing wearable apps? To grab a fortunate spot in the industry in the wisest manner, you will have to make sure you don’t end up falling prey to errors that are trivial and grave alike.

Interestingly, unlike smartphones and laptops, wearable devices are comparatively small and always within reach. Though, as we mentioned earlier, their performance and customer experience depends on the apps used to operate these wearables.  

Below, we have piled up five critical aspects that you should take care of as you go about developing apps for wearable devices. These aspects will assist you in developing a solid wearable app strategy, and thereby quality apps for wearables:

1. Coping with the obvious uncertainties

Ask what is the best use of wearable apps and the answer would be quick interactions that one can opt for when using a particular wearable device. However, considering that the market of wearable apps is in its most nascent stage, vendors are yet to discover how customers are actually interacting, or are willing to interact with these applications as well as the devices.  

As an answer to this, Markiyan Matsekh(ELEKS) stated that, “What is obvious now, but wasn't obvious at the beginning, is that people use the app just for a couple seconds. If the interaction lasts for more than three to five seconds, they are more likely to take out their phone.”

Likewise, Jon Michaeli (Medisafe) says that, “Make sure you understand the use case. You really have to simplify what it is that you're going to do on the watch: understand what the boundary is so you don't overcomplicate the application and make it unusable.”

It only means that you need to build apps that are overly simple and user-friendly at the same time. Remember, that there is always a scope for experimenting with the app design and functionality, so as to discover an ideal solution. But before that, you should understand the types of problems your application can solve along with identifying your potential customers. Also, it is recommended that you consider all the available use cases as well as usability standards.

2. Developing for the small size

Size is a critical factor when you go about developing applications for wearables. It is a natural phenomenon wherein vendors aim at providing maximum number of app functions, but the same idea doesn’t really go well with the small-sized devices. As a developer, you need to keep in mind the limited computing power that comes along with the small screens. Instead of stuffing the app with unnecessary functionalities, you better understand its potential customer first and then decide on to working around basic features. Concentrating on developing fewer features first will give you hands-on to further develop more relevant functionalities as you would have already interacted with your users, and therefore have understood their requirements better.

3. Keeping away from fragmentation

You being a developer simply cannot overlook the truth that wearable devices are highly admired for them being easily accessible; indeed even more than smartphones. On the contrary, you are certain to encounter situations wherein the software and hardware may not work simultaneously and therefore the data being exchanged by the devices via cloud platform may lose its way. It is vital to avoid such situations where the performance and user experience are affected. Hence, again you should only focus on deploying basic app functions, as well as use reliable software and hardware combinations.

4. Dealing with restricted platform functionalities

You might be already well-versed with the fact that platforms like Apple, Android and Tizen provide very few tools for developers. In a scenario like this, it is possible that your dream project that appears too easy on paper might turn out to be too difficult in terms of implementing animations or sensor technologies. The best solution to this is enabling “wearable device along with smartphone” scheme that lets you avail animations or taptic options. Also, to make sure you are mistakenly not aiming at making your users wait while the data exchange process takes place, you need to count on cloud solutions.

5. Refrain from opting for Hardware Driven Approach

It isn’t a good idea to start off with a hardware driven approach because the technology is evolving at a fast pace and so is the evolution of newly launched devices. Make sure that your app runs well on current-gen hardware along with the expected-gen hardware that’s expected to be launched in the near future. This is the best way to deal with scenarios wherein a company launches a current-gen wearable only to satiate few user cases so that they can come up with an immersive technology experience in the second go. Therefore, your entire app design and development process should be undertaken only after considering such use cases.

Over to you

No matter how difficult or challenging the process seems to be from a distance, the only solution to cope up with developing niche apps for wearables is to keep investing time in design, functionality, testing and thereby keep analysing use cases. More or less, your goal with the wearable apps should be to cater the users with a smooth transition from a mobile device to a wearable device that delivers nothing but valuable experience.

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