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Wearable App Performance – What History Has Taught Us

By Celeste Malia | May 27, 2015

CATEGORIES: Mobile Quality

Wearable Devices 

It’s hard to believe now, but, when the iPhone came out in 2007, reception was not unanimously positive. Reviewers saw flaws in the new device, and had trouble figuring out what the phone was for beyond more traditional methods of communication. It took time for general consumers to warm up to the iPhone too. What changed? The App Store debuted, developers began to figure out how to design with the iPhone in mind, and finally, perhaps most importantly, the users figured out how it fit into their lives.

Enter the wearable device. Currently, the market for wearables, such as the Apple Watch, is in the same position that the iPhone was in back in 2007. While facing some skepticism from critics and the public alike, it is important to remember that the iPhone overcame similar struggles and now is a huge driver for revenue and home to 1.2 million apps.

Growing Pains

When mobile apps where first introduced there were very few agreed upon design conventions among developers. Take for example the now ubiquitous “hamburger” button symbolizing a menu of options: in the early days customers didn’t know what this symbol meant. Now it is an industry standard.

The lesson? Conventions will manifest over time. Developers working on designing wearable apps should keep this in mind. Customers and developers form a relationship, which eventually creates these sorts of design conventions, which ultimately will lead to a more widespread adoption of wearables in business and culture.

Persona Led Design

When developing apps many developers utilize so-called “persona-led design” – this is where the designer before creating an app plans an intended app experience according to a specific user persona in mind. This includes everything from what a target user will use an app for to how they will interact with the app to how long each interaction should last and more. This process entails designing with a time “budget” in mind. For instance, a designer may decide the ideal app interaction should be 15 seconds. They can then begin designing each stage of an app interaction to meet that goal, factoring in time for loading and latency.

Other Considerations

Currently, wearable devices also rely on a network connection between smartphone and device – this is a handoff point that can lead to additional latency. Developers must factor in this handoff in order to ensure an optimal experience.

Additionally, it is vital to think about factors such as use cases – is the app designed for a broad range of needs or a specific use case. For example, a healthcare wearable application might benefit from reminders or alerts. This type of design can make a wearable device more functional and provide greater utility.

Lastly, it is important to have real-time visibility into how apps are being used. While apps should be designed with a specific persona and corresponding use cases in mind, often times, once available to the public, app providers may find users are leveraging apps in an unexpected way. Future updates should help support these use cases to help improve the customer experience.

While nascent, the wearable app market is set to take off. Developers who learn from the past can help take wearable devices from a passing fad to an ever-present part of our daily lives.

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