Design Principles for Wearable Tech — What’s up with Wearables?

Once just a quirky staple of the sci-fi genre, wearable technology is pushing into the mainstream, giving everyone the chance to be Robocop.

Well, not quite Robocop yet, but maybe one day…

In September 2013, Samsung released Galaxy Gear — a sleek smartwatch to accompany the Note 3 smartphone. Despite marketing fanfare, the watch received scathing reviews with critics lamenting over its cluttered interface and limited functionality.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

According to a recent study conducted by market research firm ABI, 61 percent of the wearable tech market can be attributed to sports and activity trackers like Nike Fuel and Fitbit. Toronto-based startup Push is also honing in on this space.

Wearables are Data Heavy
 and Power Hungry

Push is a wearable device built specifically for weight training. It tracks and analyzes force, power and velocity; metrics traditionally used by elite athletes, coaches and trainers. In November, Push exceeded its Indiegogo goal, raising over $133,000 from 940 backers. Major sports organizations have also shown enthusiasm in the project.

For Chief Design Officer and Co-Founder Mike Lovas, the device’s user experience design was key.

Push Interface

He explained that Push is bigger than other wearables because it runs on a larger battery.

“We stream a lot of data and so it’s just a power hungry operation,” said Lovas.

“Because we want really accurate metrics, and when you’re doing you know a bench press for instance, that movement only lasts for like a second. So, we have to get lots of data in to get an accurate measurement of such a quick motion. That means we need a lot of battery power,” he continued.

Solving a Problem is all about Context

Scenarios of use also played a starring role in the design process.

“A lot of the fitness trackers have a band that goes around your wrist, and for our application in the gym, wearing a watch, or something that wears like a watch, is really obtrusive; it gets in the way if you’re squatting or bench-pressing really heavy weights. It’s not comfortable,” he explained.

“So because of that we shifted the location of the device up onto the forearm. And then also, in terms of getting really accurate metrics, we couldn’t have the band being loose at all. So instead of a silicone band like a lot of the wearables are these days, we went with a neoprene strap, which you know, hugs your arm a lot tighter.”

Push

The design still maintains a tough and rugged look-and-feel.

“The guys at the gym love it,” said Lovas.

Enhance don’t Override

Like other fitness trackers, Push connects to the user’s smartphones (or tablet) via Bluetooth, where their workout has been analyzed. However, Lovas is mindful not to overwhelm users with too much data.

“There’s infinite amounts of data that you can get now, whether it’s from the net, your phone, Twitter, like there’s just so much information out there. So, adding more data to that already kind of saturated space in your mind I think is something that has to be overcome.

“And, that’s a big thing that we’re working on is just making our app and our device super almost, I don’t know if simple is the right word, but just making it, at the surface level, really easy to use.”

Images: Fitbit and Nike Fuelband

Principles of Design for
 Wearable Tech

As experience designers, we adapt to burgeoning technologies to build better experiences for people. It’s not enough for something to simply look good; rather, we must design with the scenario of use top-of-mind.

Since wearable tech is here-to-stay in some form or another, we’ve developed a few design principles that will get you better positioned for success:

  1. Solve a problem for your users: don’t create more issues. Strive to understand user scenarios and always design for specific contexts of use.
  2. Enhance a natural experience: don’t override it. According to a CNN review of the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show, tech companies are beginning to design wearables relevant for mainstream audiences. New products are more appealing because they wear like fashionable clothing and accessories. Nike, for instance, recently released (and sold out) their chic rose-gold Fuel Band device.
  3. Ensure content is relevant at a glance: don’t inundate the user with useless information. Since wearable tech captures big data on tiny screens, aim to be direct and concise. Prioritize based on relevancy (refer back to principles 1 and 2).

Originally published at www.pivotdesigngroup.com.

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