Apple Watch represents a new chapter in the way users relate to technology. It’s the most personal device Apple has ever designed, and it enables new ways to receive information and to interact with apps.

As you design your Watch app, understand the foundations on which Apple Watch itself was designed:

Lightweight interactions. Apple Watch was designed for quick interactions that make the most of the display and its position on the user’s wrist. Information is quick and easy to access and dismiss. The best apps support fast interactions and focus on the content that users care about the most.

Holistic design. Apple Watch was designed to blur the boundaries between device and software. For example, Force Touch and the Digital Crown let users interact seamlessly with onscreen content. Your own apps should enhance the user’s perception that hardware and software are indistinguishable.

Personal communication.
Because Apple Watch was designed to be worn, its UI is attuned to the user’s presence. No other Apple device has ever been so closely connected to the user. Be mindful of this connection during the design process.

Design Principles

Designing a great app requires a focused approach. Interactions with Apple Watch are measured in seconds, so your app must quickly provide the user with essential information. Three primary themes define the design approach to take:

  • Glanceable. Glanceable apps make the most important information readily available to the user. Interactions occur over short periods of time, so apps must convey the most important information up front and communicate that information clearly and without distraction. Being glanceable also means keeping the app’s snapshot up-to-date so that the Dock is always displaying current information. A glanceable app provides a complication to give user information directly from the watch face, and it uses a custom notification interface to maximize the scan-ability of notification content.

  • Actionable. Actionable apps are mindful of the information they present to the user. An actionable app anticipates the user’s needs by ensuring that what’s onscreen is always current and relevant. It takes advantage of opportunities to update its interface, using background time to fetch new data, update its complication, or refresh its snapshot. It provides a complication, so that users can access the app easily. Its custom notification interfaces include custom actions to handle common tasks without opening the app.

  • Responsive. Interactions with your app should be quick. A responsive app provides a complication and keeps its snapshot up-to-date. It minimizes the time it takes to launch and load new screens. It responds to user interactions with immediate feedback about what the app is going to do, and then uses notifications to deliver progress updates later.

Interface Essentials

Watch apps are built using components from WatchKit, a programming framework that defines the available interface elements. This framework lets apps achieve a consistent appearance, while at the same time giving you tools to customize the look of your app. WatchKit elements are adaptable, enabling you to design a single app that looks great on all Apple Watch devices. The interface elements provided by WatchKit fit into two categories:

  • Views. Contain the content people see in your app, such as text, images, animations, and video content.
  • Controls. Initiate actions and convey information. Buttons, switches, and sliders are examples of controls.

Apps with complications also use components from ClockKit, a programming framework that defines the templates for presenting your complication data on the watch face.

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