Wearable electronics may be all the rage, but there’s no denying that widespread and long-term consumer adoption is still low. Many people try them and then quickly abandon them, or they expect something beyond their current capabilities—longer battery life, better aesthetic, less intrusive, GPS—you name it. And, because wearables require new design and user experience paradigms, some find the learning curve too steep.
So while most of us can agree that, yes, wearable electronics have arrived, there are significant hurdles keeping them from reaching “must-have” status belonging to our smartphones.
While some shortcomings are still due to technology and device capabilities such as battery life, the designers at Fjord have found there are key moments where design can truly make or break the wearable experience. Regardless of how fast, connected, durable or untethered a device may be, we think the wearable industry can create better user experiences by leveraging a few key design principles.
1. Balance Public & Personal
Wearables, for better or worse, are often exposed to a public audience, unlike smartphones, which can hide in the privacy of our pockets or purses. With these devices, we may find ourselves “wearing” some of the most personal aspects of ourselves: our conversations, relationships, and even health. This renders them both the most private and public devices yet. Designers must not only account for a user’s context and surroundings, but also for the angle and position of their wrist (or someplace else on the body) when making decisions about what is displayed and when. When designing for this paradox, designers should keep in mind this precarious tipping point between public and personal.
Some tactics for handling shifts between the two may include: vibrating first, recognizing subtle device position, and most importantly, shipping with considerate default settings.
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