Choosing a Widget’s Focus
A widget displays a small amount of timely, personally relevant information that people can view at a glance. Even though interacting with a widget lets people see or do more in your app, a widget’s main purpose is to provide useful content people can get without opening your app.
The first step in the design process is to choose a single idea for your widget. Throughout the process, use that idea to keep the widget’s content focused and relevant.
Look for a simple idea that’s clearly related to your app’s main purpose. In some cases, this might mean choosing an idea that resembles your app’s overall purpose — for example, a weather app’s widget could show the weather for a single location or the widget for a calorie-tracking app might show calories burned for the day. In other cases, a widget’s idea can reflect an aspect of the app’s main purpose — for example, a game’s widget could show a character’s status or the widget from a drawing app might display favorite sketches.
In each size, display only the information that’s directly related to the widget’s idea. In larger widgets, you can display more data — or more detailed visualizations of the data — but it’s crucial to stay focused on the widget’s idea. For example, all Calendar widgets display the user’s upcoming events. In each size from small to extra large, the widget maintains its focus on events while expanding the range of information as the size increases.
Avoid creating a widget that does nothing but launch your app. People appreciate widgets because they provide instant access to meaningful content. A widget that behaves like an app icon offers no additional value and isn’t likely to remain on a user’s screen.
Offer your widget in multiple sizes when doing so adds value. In general, avoid simply expanding a smaller widget’s content to fill a larger area. It’s more important to create one widget in the size that works best for the content you want to display than it is to provide the widget in all sizes.
Prefer dynamic information that changes throughout the day. If a widget’s content never appears to change, people may not keep it in a prominent position. Although widgets don’t update from minute to minute, it’s important to find ways to keep their content fresh to invite frequent viewing.
Look for opportunities to surprise and delight. For example, you might design a unique visual treatment for your calendar widget to display on meaningful occasions, like birthdays or holidays.
Updating Widget Content
To remain relevant and useful, widgets should periodically refresh their information. Widgets don’t support continuous, real-time updates, and the system may adjust the limits for updates depending on various factors.
Keep your widget up-to-date. Finding the right update frequency for your widget depends on knowing how often the data changes and estimating how often people need to see new data. For example, a widget that helps people track tides at a beach could provide useful information on an hourly basis, even though tide conditions change constantly. If people are likely to check your widget more frequently than you can update it, consider displaying text that describes when the data was last updated. For developer guidance, see Keeping a Widget Up to Date.
Let the system update dates and times in your widget. Widget update frequency is limited, and you can preserve some of your update opportunities by letting the system refresh date and time information.
Show content quickly. When you determine the update frequency that fits with the data you display, you shouldn’t need to hide stale data behind placeholder content.