Its screen may be small, but the Apple Watch has big project potential—if the wearable
computer follows the breakout-hit path of other devices sold by the world’s largest technology
company. Accordingly, app developers are sizing up the new technology to determine whether,
and when, it makes sense for project teams to try to build a winning product for Apple’s small-est screen yet.
Sponsors who green-lighted app projects before the smartwatch’s April 2015 release date
discovered that project managers and designers had to make early decisions without user data
and an established development framework. “When we were designing and building, we had no
idea what it would be like to interact with Apple Watch. We had simulators and guidance from
Apple, but a lot of it was gut feel,” says Sriram Chakravarthy, CTO, Avaamo, Los Altos, California, USA. Avaamo’s app, which offers a mobile-messaging service for businesses, debuted
alongside the Apple Watch itself. “We had to take an approach that was driven more by use
cases than actual user experience,” Mr. Chakravarthy says. That meant imagining how customers might benefit from a quick look at an Avaamo app, such as while driving or jogging, and
then devising notifications tailored to those interactions.
The testing phase revealed design problems that likely would have been avoided had the
product already been released. But because the watch’s small interface requires a simple design,
“it’s really quick to iterate. You can make changes and see them immediately,” says Ryan
Alexiev, creative director, Avaamo, Los Altos, California, USA.
Other organizations have taken a more cautious approach to Apple Watch projects. Affinity-Live CEO Geoff McQueen, whose company makes professional services automation software,
including customer relationship management software, used the device for a month after it
went on sale before green-lighting a project. “We wanted to add meaningful value, not just
jump on the bandwagon,” says Mr. McQueen, based in San Francisco, California, USA. Once
he understood how his organization could take advantage of two of the watch’s sweet spots—
notifications and time-based functionality—a team got to work on an app allowing workers to
track the hours spent on various projects.
For a watch app to be a hit, teams must understand how users interact with the product.
“You’ve got to figure out how not to be spammy by learning what things are useful and when.
That’s where to focus,” says Drew Davidson, vice president of design at digital experience design
agency ÄKTA, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
requires a simple
really quick to
iterate. You can
and see them
—Ryan Alexiev, Avaamo, Los Altos,