A watchOS app can provide more detailed information and more powerful functionality than people generally find in the app’s complications, notifications, or Siri interactions. Although people may use complications and other quick interactions more often than they use the app itself, they must install the app to access these interactions.

Make your app’s interface highly glanceable. Organize text, images, and controls so people can quickly and easily find the information they need and perform actions. Streamline user interactions by creating focused, space-efficient interfaces. For example:

Screenshot of the Workout app’s main screen, focused on the outdoor run goal.

Workout focuses one button at a time so people can start a workout with one tap.

Screenshot of the Weather app’s hourly forecast of conditions for Cupertino.

Weather arranges current temperature and conditions in a form that fits the watch face.

Screenshot of the Noise app, showing a reading of ninety-one decibels and a description of the potential effects of long-term exposure to this level of noise.

Noise updates a real-time meter and text descriptions as noise increases or decreases.

Make sure your app runs well when the paired iPhone is out of range. People expect to be able to use your app when they’re away from their iPhone. For most apps, this means ensuring that content is up to date even when iPhone isn’t nearby. For developer guidance, see Keeping Your watchOS Content Up To Date and Creating Independent watchOS Apps.

Responding to the Always-On State

On devices that include the Always-On Retina display, watchOS 8 automatically reduces the display’s overall brightness when a wearer drops their wrist. In this context, the system dims the UI of the frontmost app, while remaining instantly interactive when the wearer taps the display. For developer guidance, see Designing Your App for the Always On State.

Hide highly sensitive information. While dimmed, the UI of the frontmost app is still visible, so it’s important to redact personal information that the wearer wouldn’t want casual observers to see, like bank balances or health data. In contrast, people might want other types of personal information to remain glanceable. For example, people typically appreciate getting heart rate and pace updates while they’re working out, or viewing the next step on the way to their destination. If people don’t want any information to be visible, they can deactivate Always On for your app.

Highlight important information by dimming nonessential content. You can increase dimming on secondary text, images, and color fills to give more prominence to the information people want to remain visible. For example, a to-do list app might remove row backgrounds and dim each item’s additional details to highlight the item title. Also, if you display rich images or large areas of color, consider removing images and using dimmed colors.

Keep the layout of interactive elements consistent. Always On lets people continue to use the frontmost app while the display is dimmed. Repositioning or removing interactive elements risks confusing people and making it difficult for them to use your app.

Customizing Without Adding Complexity

Don’t include a launch screen. Apple Watch interactions are brief and focused, and people expect to view their content immediately.

Avoid displaying your logo in your app. Make the best use of screen space by displaying content instead of nonfunctional branding elements.

Express brand identity through font, global tint color, and image choices. These elements let you create a unique visual style without making your app appear busy or complicated.

Prefer a plain black background. Avoid filling background areas with brand colors, and apply colors to specific elements instead. A solid black background reduces visual noise and improves the legibility of text.