Shifting Platforms, Keeping Your UX Core

Using a convo about Polar on the Apple Watch, exploring what it means for a company to drive their UX narrative to future platforms

The other day, a friend took something we said in a conversation and tweeted it:

For the most part — given that I was the one who convinced him to go Polar in the first place — I agree with him. However, while it is that I agree with him, I find myself thinking about other shifts in hardware and software where we want something of the familiar setting of the former, but for the former to extend on the UX of the latter. If you will, there should be something in the older platform that the newer can’t match, where the older platform can enrich the latter.

Now, this usually isn’t the case; older platforms are older because they get usurped — missing some key (later realized as obvious) feature and that’s where they get disrupted. The older platform may indeed have some considerable wisdom within it. There were bugs fixed, acquisition problems addressed, and likely optimization routes taken, which just aren’t present or easily navigated in the newer product.

So I sent a reply (which led to me writing this):

Thought experiment: what would Polar optimized on an Apple Watch look like?

  • Apple Watch doesn’t do sleep tracking natively; so keeping that feature as a light-running app would be excellent
  • Bonus for sleep tracking would be to do the high-level view of sleep stages (probably base on heart rate and movement within 3ft/1m of starting sleep position) as is done on Polar’s Loop 2 device
  • Extend what data is already calculated by the workout app, for example pace for running/riding/swimming
  • I loved the VO2 Max ability of the M600 — would be great to see some kind of adjusted version of that within this
  • Sports Profiles (from Polar Flow): to be able to not just setup a sports profile, but (a) have it automatically engaged when an associated workout is selected and (b) have it give you metrics versus a baseline/best recorded workout
  • Connect with other Polar Flow users: might be harder, but would be good to take existing connections in Polar Flow/Beat and make them preferred to share your workout with (as exposed in Workout app currently)
  • Sync to/from Polar Flow: I’ve got a few years of data in Flow, would be nice to have that show in Apple Health and Workout app (Polar doesn’t lose control of this, and Apple’s non-web interface for this data becomes less an issue)
  • Connect to other Polar hardware: a one click connecting to new devices; probably embed within the app the devices already registered with Polar
  • In-App purchase to upgrade/add Polar Coaching (creating a market for iOS folks who already are in Polar’s Coaching program to push the affiliate marketing side of things)

That would be more than enough to get existing Polar users to consider the Apple Watch but not leave the ecosystem. And while that would be something of a challenge to how Polar has done things currently, it would be following along with their UX of making fitness a lifestyle.

This is all great for Polar, but what does this look like for other companies? Well, it’s actually quite simple: figure out the core characteristics of your brand/product area and what you migrate forward. Here are some helps:

  • Why is your service a driver for the newer platform’s adoption?
  • How can you use the newer platform as validation your approach worked?
  • What is your existing community willing to gain/lose when you don’t drive the product, but do drive key interactions?

Nothing about what I’m suggesting for Polar is all too hard, but it does mean giving up control of the parts they didn’t do well, which were the parts where a disruptor has taken their audience.

Other products would do well to think like this, not so much about the Apple Watch, but how to move on from their current to whatever the next dominant platforms will be (you don’t do spreadsheets in AR but you will do data visualization — so don’t repeat Excel for example). User experience is a fickle bird, but it’s not one that will fly away unless you don’t pay attention to the branches users sit on. Usually speaking, it’s a lot less complicated than it seems.

My profession includes product and process consulting along with other UX tasks. If my services would be useful for your organization, get in touch and we will together develop the next great experiences.

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