Widgetisation of Apps

Apps are no longer the main destination. Their purpose is changing and with iOS 10 we got just enough to adjust.

Since the introduction of Instant Apps I‘ve been thinking about the future of mobile. The idea of loading apps the same way as with regular websites is fascinating. Naturally I was expecting Apple to present something similar.

So imagine my surprise when at WWDC I saw this:

Source: Apple

At first it looked like a simple redesign. My phone already had widgets and notifications. But then, it occurred to me.

In iOS 10 those things became an experience in itself. If you use them right, there is no need to open an app at all. Huh.

Doing less, better

When you think about it, people expect technology to be more integrated with their lives. Advances in wearables and speech recognition show that.

Widgets look like a good route to take then. They require less attention while providing at least the same value.

I was hooked. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I installed an iOS beta (on my main phone #NoRegrets) and jumped right in.

Conclusion? In iOS 10, widgets became more important than ever.

They are on the lock screen, home screen, 3D-touch menus, and sometimes even in the notification center. The main goal of apps then is to make a good use of those channels.

Few things to keep in mind while we’re at it, though.

Search screen, Notification Details View and Quick Actions Menu (Source: Apple)
  • Widgets are heavily contextual, so they have to be fast to use and focused on a single-task. Think of them as a window to an app, showing the most important thing it does.
  • Don’t force people to switch apps every time they get a notification. No one likes that. Provide a Details view and all relevant actions inside the notification.
  • Adding widgets to the Search screen requires an effort. Checking the Quick Actions view does not. Showing a widget there improves discovery and allows people to easily add it.

In short, apps should provide the most essential functionality and move out of the way. Because, let’s be honest, the less time we spend looking at the screen the better we feel.

Preparing for the future

The best apps won’t draw attention from the world but rather try to fit in.

To make people happy we have to keep them off their phones. We have to start relying on the contextual cues to show them relevant information, when they need it. Sounds familiar?

Apps, similarly to glances in watchOS, should start supporting shorter, but more frequent interactions.

And we have a lot of tools to choose from. Apps can be accessed externally via SiriKit, Extensions or even well-timed Rich Notifications. The list keeps growing.

Apple is known for taking small steps in preparation for a big leap (Like with hiring car engineers before presenting… oh wait).

So, maybe soon we won’t have to experience the friction of opening an app at all?

Follow me on Twitter to stay updated!

Thanks to Arek Holko.

Kamil Kołodziejczyk

Written by

UX Designer. Passionate about technology and the way it impacts our lives.