9 User Interface Guidelines for Designing Smartwatch Applications



If we think about our life then we can see many changes in our life after the pandemic, now we are more conscious of our personal health, hygiene, and fitness. Wearables are the elements that are helping the world in maintaining the streak. There are lots of types of wearables such as fitness bands, smartwatches, VR, earbuds, smart clothing, and many more. Smartwatches like the Apple Watch or Motorola’s Moto 360 are popular these days. Here are a few user interface guidelines to keep in mind when designing smartwatch applications.

1. Ergonomics:

You don’t need to retrieve a smartwatch from your packet or your bag but it doesn’t mean that it is easy to use. You have to lift your arm and rotate the wrist again and again to view the watch and to interact with an app, you have to reach across your body with your other arm. If you do this for more than a few seconds then it can make you tired physically. It is always necessary to check the physical cost of any given interaction when designing smartwatch and for this, you can test them on real devices.

2. Gestures:

The creators usually don’t think of gesture-based navigation for a smartphone. But to consider gestures to a smaller screen real-estate like a smartwatch can be a good idea. You should always try to use simple and memorable gestures in smartwatch applications. Using new and novel gestures can make an app more engaging on a smartphone. Simplicity and memorability are more important for a watch’s form factor than anything else.

3. Platform Design:

The designers use well-documented user interface and interaction design patterns for designing android wear and Apple’s watch OS. Your goal should be to create an app that is well-functioning and easy to use. So always help the users by leveraging design and interaction conventions that they already know.

4. Colors:

Colors are one of the primary objectives of any smartwatch.  You can not only aid your branding through a well-defined color, but you can also create a visual continuity between different screens. You should follow the main three key principles while using colors for designing a smartwatch.

  • Context Consideration: You should always choose the colors that send an appropriate message. For example, if you use a vibrant red color as a background color during meditation for a mindfulness app then it can create jarring for users.
  • Contrast Consideration: According to Apple, using a light color for text is good because it gives proper contrast and legibility.
  • Color Blindness Consideration: There are many colorblind people that have to face difficulty to distinguish red from green. So never use these color combinations to deliver the message.


Google uses monochromatic color palettes that help to differentiate elements on the screen. To have dark colors for the background is good for social environments because it shows your screens less obtrusive. Darker colors are also useful in OLED displays as they better preserve battery life.

5. Embrace Error Recovery:

If your app allows users to delete something, make sure your app also provides them a way to recover without any mistakes. Sometimes, users just brush a watch screen accidentally and it is easy to delete an alert that is really needful for them. Google’s Gmail for desktop and smartphones have an Undo function that allows users to recover their data from an error.

6. Standalone Functionality:

A smartphone app offers to make mobile payments and redeeming rewards points features so if a watch app is paired to a smartphone, make sure the watch should also support these features. If users get a watch alert in a geofenced retail function that shows, they need to pull out the phone from their pockets or bags to make payments, scan coupons, and redeem points then this can make them frustrated. If smartwatches have independent Wi-Fi capabilities or data plans then these watches will become more standalone in the future and this approach will be helpful to design a successful smartwatch.

7. Limited Actions on Screen:

Don’t make the mistake to understand a watch as a small smartphone. It is essential to make watch experiences as complete as possible so never try to put all the functions of your smartphone on a smaller screen. Always keep use cases simple and focused on your smartwatch apps. Otherwise, your users will get frustrated and they can also have a reason to delete your app.

8. Inputs:

Filling out forms on smartphones is not easy, but it’s even worse on the watch. So just limit the inputs to gestures, voice input, taps, and present responses. In some cases, you need typing for use cases like logging into a banking app to approve a payment: You can shift that part of interaction to the smartphones. As we know the screen of smartwatches is very small so it is quite difficult for users to type something with that built-in keyboard. Thus, it is better to minimize the use of that built-in keyboard to give it a positive direction. Instead of this, you can take the inputs in form of dropdowns or multiple selections on the screen.

9. Alerts:

Most smartwatches use tones or vibrations to attract user’s attention as a primary way, so always keep in mind how often you want to alert them. Some users can be comfortable with getting alerts for every Facebook message they receive but it is not necessary that they want the same frequency from your app also. So just make your settings enable so that they can easily control the alerts and set them according to their needs like which alerts they want in their phone or which alert they want to their wrist. As a user, everyone wants to manage the alerts from different apps and no one wants to see their hand buzzing for each stupid notification. The content is more important than design because users always focus on the content more so just design your UI for the alerts as simple as possible.


Whether you are designing smartwatch applications, mobile applications, or desktop applications, always remember that every interface should be designed in such a way that a user can perform the desired activity more quickly and easily. Although this is true not only for wearables but for every interface platform.

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