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Good To Know: Principles of Design For Wearables

  • By Ajaykrishna Panicker
  • 1, December 2015
  • UX / UI
  • By Ajaykrishna Panicker
  • 1, December 2015
  • UX / UI

We once told the future with a paper and pen; with technology impacting every part of our lives, there are some things that have just disappeared from today’s culture, and the youth will never be able to experience any of this first-hand. Every generation comes and goes with its trends and that’s okay! In fact, that’s the mark of a successful design.

In the era of modern technology, tech wearables are what everyone is raving about and something that opens up a whole new world to be explored. We as designers are quickly learning that the rules we came up with for the smartphones don’t necessarily work on the shrunken screens. A good design, much like anything, starts with understanding the basics. Applying design principles in your particular context helps you avoid design disasters and allows you to communicate your key theme.

So, herewith a few principles of design for thinking about what it takes to create a thoughtful experience on our increasingly tiny screens and make our lives better.

 

Hierarchy of Needs

The user-centred goals that a design must satisfy in order to achieve optimal success are based on “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. The idea of a hierarchy of needs of a design rests on the assumption that in order to be successful, a design must meet basic needs before it can satisfy higher-level needs. Before a design can “wow” us, it must work as intended. It must meet some minimal requirements or nothing else will really matter. The hierarchy of needs consists of five levels that are typically satisfied in sequence: Functionality, Reliability, Usability, Proficiency and Creativity respectively.

 

Back of the Dresser

Apple Watch cross-section
Image source: Cult of Mac - Apple Watch teardown

All parts of a design should be held to the same standard of quality (proposed informally by Steve Jobs); the craftsmanship applied by designers and developers to areas not ordinarily visible to customers is a good indicator of product quality.

Indications of craftsmanship include quality materials, precision fit, uniformity of finish, internal consistency, and maker marks or signatures. These elements reflect the passion and care of the creators.

 

Micro-interaction and Glanceability


Image source: SmartWatches.org - Virtual Reality wearables

Whatever happens in the front of the user is always going to be demanding, fast, and is going to need much of the user’s attention. Whatever you give them should be very glanceable – getting to the essence of information that the user needs in a time and place that they are.

 

Minimalism


Apple Watch notification messages

Reducing a design to only the most essential elements – let people see what they actually want to, even in a scurry/bustle situation. 

Consider what can be condensed, what can replaced by something more concise. Focus on contrast, space, organization, colour, and dominant visuals and typography. KISS Principle – Keep It Simple Stupid! (Proposed by Kelly Johnson). Simple designs work better and are more reliable.

 

Consistency

When similar things have similar meanings and functions, usability and learnability improves. Consistency enables people to transfer knowledge efficiently to new contexts, learn new things quickly and focus attention on the relevant aspects of a task.

Follow design standards when they exist. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson (an American transcendentalist poet, philosopher and essayist during the 19th century) once said: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

 

Control

Since accommodating multiple methods increases complexity, the number of methods should be limited to two: one for beginners and another for experts providing methods for frequent operations. When systems are complex and frequently used, consider designs that can be customized to user preference and levels of expertise.

 

Voice Interface

Utilize voice to support natural human interactions. 

 

Cost-Benefit

If the costs associated with a design outweigh the benefits, the design is poor. If the benefits outweigh the cost, the design is good. Do not make design decisions based on cost or benefits alone.

Focus on behavioural design, user compatibility and role-switching adaptability. It is easier to access a smartwatch than slipping out a smartphone from our pocket. The design must form an integral presence for humans to accommodate with them. Also, a wearable should be self-sufficient to improve our performance. Being a seamless node of information, the capacity of interaction between the user and device should increase. 

Always remember – the world is the experience.

Every interface should be designed to empower and educate the user to perform a desired activity more quickly and more easily and the product should help, give timely information and things that help people stay connected to others and be connected to the moment that they are in.

 

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Ajaykrishna Panicker

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