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How can UX Designers Create a Great User Experience for Wearable Technology?

Wearable devices and wearable technology is everywhere. From our smart watches, to health trackers and even smart glasses – we’ve come a long way from the time Fitbit released the first wearable tracker in the year 2009.

Since then wearable devices have infiltrated our daily lives. Today we have smart wearable technology of all kinds. From jackets to jewellery, wearable design is the new frontier of tech.

But getting the user experience of these wearables just like with smartphones can be tricky. 

There are a few UI and UX principles designed for wearable tech that can enhance the overall experience of wearables.  Let’s look at what these fundamental principles are and how they can help UX designers.

1. Design Hardware Suited to the Device and How it Will be Used

Hardware

The primary focus for a designer should be to design a device that is both comfortable and aesthetic. Users are going to be wearing these devices on their hands, so having a device that is comfortable to wear all day is going to be of the utmost priority. And nowadays users have become extremely discerning, so it goes without saying that devices must be beautiful and aesthetic too. It also does not hurt if the technology is trendy and fashionable as most smart tech wearers fall in the younger generation. 

Users want to be able to customise everything they use and wear as for them it is an extension of their personality. 

Thus while designing the hardware for wearable tech, designers need to keep a few important things in mind such as where this device will be worn, how will the user be interacting with the device. There will be subtle differences between devices based on how they’re worn and where they are used.

2. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Good Software UX

There need to be several considerations kept in mind while designing good software UX. Since users will be accessing the device through software – either a menu or an app, the importance of good software UX cannot be understated.

Here are some principles to keep in mind while designing the software.

  • Ensure that the information is visible at a glance

The real estate available on a smartwatch screen is extremely less. Thus these tiny screens must provide users with exactly the information that they need at that exact given moment. Wearables without screens need to be able to provide essential information in an easy and seamless way.

  • Maintain simplicity

Users do not want to be bombarded with useless information on both their smartphones as well as their wearable devices. While it can be easy to keep it simple o devices intended for a particular purpose like fitness trackers, it can be harder in devices that have all the capabilities of a smart phone like smart watches. But maintaining simplicity is essential.

  • Keep it secure

Like any other technology, wearables are also susceptible to hackers, malware, and other security breaches. Therefore ensuring devices are secure is an integral part of designing the UX of a device.

  • Protect users privacy

Unlike other tech like computers, wearables are a more public accessory. However the information they provide should stay private. To ensure others cannot view the information on a user’s device, designers can consider motion sensing wearables that can sense which direction users are facing so that they can sense when to dim the screen and hide important information from prying eyes.

3. Keep the User in Mind

Think about how the user will be wearing the design, what kind of functionality does it need to have? When tested in the real world under real-life scenarios how will it perform? Will the user react to it well? If the users do not like the product, then no matter how good the design is, it won’t matter. This is why user testing is extremely important to gauge the usability of the product. 

Spending time on user research and creating user personas that help you understand your target user and their needs better is a crucial aspect of the entire design process. 

4. Incorporate Physical Cues

Your app design needs to incorporate the real world to simplify the workflow on the device for the user. There are different ways to do this. One is to use data such as location services to know what the user is doing and provide options to help enhance what they are doing. For example if the user is in a restaurant, the app could help the user with payment options, or even help them scan the menu and quickly see what’s on the specials menu for the day. 

Second is to incorporate real world objects into the virtual experience to expand and complement the user interface. Smartwatches and wearables are the ideal platform to support activities in the real world that have a direct effect in the virtual world.

Conclusion

Wearable technology can enhance our real world experiences – it just needs a fresh design approach. UX designers just need to shift their focus from the technology to thinking about design experiences that are engaging but not distracting.

Published by Antara Bhargava

Sr. UX Designer

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Antara Bhargava Sr. UX Designer