While 2014 was dubbed by tech publications and experts to be “The Year of the Wearable,” the technology has shown no sign of slowing down in 2015; instead, as engadget so eloquently put it, “2015 is the year wearables grow up.” In fact, it appears that this is the year that the technology will cross the chasm between niche and normality.
Wearables with purposes ranging from fitness to pet-tracking and disease detection are flooding the market. Wearables (#wearables) was the number-one most talked about topic at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, while FitBit—which sold 10 million units in 2014—went public this year (and raised its IPO range to $17-19 a share) , and Apple already announced the watch0S 2 at WWDC this June.
The question isn’t about the relevance of wearables, but about which ones will be deemed a useful—and even integral—part of life, and which ones will go the way of the palm pilot. It’s hard to tell, but here at Chaotic Moon Studios, we do know that there are certain design rules that, when followed and implemented correctly, will help separate the winners from the losers and determine the wearable arena’s next breakout star…
9 RULES FOR WEARABLE DESIGN:
1. DISPLAY MINIMAL CONTENT
By nature, wearables call for low-duration, high-frequency use. Users want to check their wrist (quickly) for the time; they don’t want to spend 15 minutes reading their watch. Design should reflect that.
2. MAKE IT HUMAN
Design should work naturally with what we as humans are already doing. Users don’t want to learn too many new things at once or change the way they’re already doing things. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; enhance it. This is the beauty of the Apple Watch. Many people know how to use an iPhone—and by proxy understand the use of Siri and apps. Many people wear watches and know how to lift their wrist to check the time. While there is a slight learning curve, it soon becomes almost intuitive. Everything about this product makes sense to the user and makes their lives easier, not harder.
3. DON’T OVER-ENGINEER
When creating a wearable, it’s important to hone in on the purpose. A child safety tracker should have a tracking sensor and the ability to send out distress communications; it doesn’t need to also have gaming and texting. The best practice is to keep it simple. It’s all about identifying the purpose of the product and its desired action, and executing it flawlessly.
4. COMMUNICATE THE RIGHT WAY…
There is a subtle difference between something that serves as a helpful reminder and something that serves as a nag. Good design needs to distinguish between the two. The Fitbit’s vibration when the user reaches 10,000 steps is a great feature. If it beeped after every 100 steps, many users would abandon it immediately.
5. WHILE PROVIDING THE RIGHT INFORMATION…
A well-designed wearable is more than just a product. It provides the service of giving the user contextual information. The wearable gathers and/or feeds information based on its function and what’s appropriate and desired. Consumers don’t want to sort through a bunch of data; they want the answer as soon as possible.
6. AND PROVIDING IT AT THE RIGHT TIME
However, while providing the answer is obviously important, it’s also crucial that the wearable doesn’t show the user the answer until they’re looking for it, or unless it’s urgent information the user needs right away (like blood sugar dipping dangerously low). The wearable should require minimal interaction and not serve as a distraction.
7. CONNECT WELL
Because the wearable is not a platform on which to analyze data or enter information, it needs to connect well with the user’s other devices, platforms, software and social media, ensuring that those actions can be executed when necessary.
8. KEEP AESTHETICS IN MIND
Because wearables are worn on the human body, they impart a personality on its host. Google Glass is a product that, in most cases, struggled with making a use case for consumers. The technology was considered intrusive by many, and it’s expected that those who are wearing the glasses aren’t paying attention—probably because using Google Glass is a lot like never looking up from your phone. (Exhibit A: The term “glassholes” has even been coined for people who wear Google Glass in public.) The commercial uses, however, are something no one can argue. Surgeons are using Google Glass in the operating room to record procedures, and Google Glass is also being looked at for industrial use, particularly for field workers who need to have their hands gloved or work in hostile environments. There’s nothing silly about the wearable in those contexts.
That said, it’s important to keep the audience and the device’s purpose in mind with the design. While the cool factor of the tech is obviously the key, ensuring it looks cool is a close second.
9. MAKE IT FUN
When adopting new technology, the consumer has the challenge of incorporating it into their lives. For the user to want to make that effort and break from their routine, the tech has to be extraordinarily helpful—or at least fun and slightly addictive. Fitness trackers, for example, often have the challenge of keeping their customers engaged. In one survey, one-third of consumers who owned a fitness wearable stopped wearing it within six months. From a design perspective, that increases the importance of building in ways to keep people hooked–whether it’s incorporating a social component, a game-like element or a beautiful interface.
Want more information on wearables? Check out 20+ Undeniable Ways Wearables are the Go-To Tech of the Future!