Wearable First

Why Your UX Workflow Should Start with Wearable Devices


At this point, most developers are familiar with Mobile First implementation. But in case you missed the memo about there being billions of mobile devices worldwide, here’s the gist: a Mobile First approach revolves around a UX workflow that strategically prioritizes mobile design and development before migrating to desktop.

Instagram is a great example of a Mobile First application. It launched as a mobile app long before it had a desktop component, and even today, despite being accessible by desktop, it intentionally reserves its best experience for mobile. Backed by the rapid emergence of wearable tech, we believe the time is right to take the plunge and develop Wearable First applications. Wearable First implementation develops to the unique strengths and experience of wearable devices, long before mobile and desktop platforms are considered.

It might strike you as bold to adopt a Wearable First approach when the wearable tech market is still young. One of the more visible examples, Google Glass counts only some 50,000 users among its early adopters, compared to 1.75 billion smartphone users worldwide. What’s more, a large segment of consumers have been disappointed by the current wave of wearable devices. However, analysts continue to see great potential for the near future. Disruptive tech often bookends its early years with both positive and negative reactions. The entrenched and impassioned lob blog posts back and forth 400 words at a time. Meanwhile, the object of controversy sees major improvement in just a few short years, and the market soon finds itself hit upside the head with hockey stick growth.

A Wearable First workflow prioritizes wearable devices before migrating to mobile devices and desktop screens.

Based on our experience building Glassware apps Find.It (London, England) and Shop X (Tallahassee, Florida) and interacting with the passionate community of Glass Explorers, we believe it’ll pay to be among the first to adopt a Wearable First mindset. We’re taking a niche first, world later approach. At Find.It, we believe it’s easier to start small and grow with your market than to conquer a wide audience on an already saturated and hyper competitive device medium. Being on the ground floor can take your application a long way. Shop X is a great example. It was the 52nd Glassware to be accepted to MyGlass and the only shopping list app approved by Google. That kind of accomplishment would never be possible on Android or iPhone.

We’re confident that a Wearable First approach gives us a significant edge over other applications, especially as wearable devices experience wider consumer adoption. Google’s recent partnerships with Ray Ban and Oakley indicate that wearables are only going to get more fashionable and attractive. Not that fashion alone will keep wearables afloat. If wearable hardware companies want to drive user numbers to a sustainable scale, they’ll need software hand-tailored to fit the unique UX of each wearable platform.


Adopting a Wearable First Approach

When you start conceptualizing your new application, put away your mobile phones, tablets and computers. When you’re storyboarding, don’t even mention other platforms. Focus on your wearable of choice and create your application around that device. Only when you have a clear vision of the best wearable UX, you can consider porting the application to Mobile and Desktop.

From the start, our team at Find.It wanted our app to fit snuggly into people’s lives, which made adopting a Wearable First approach an easy choice. We spent a lot of time focusing on the user, deconstructing the process and understanding how an app could help people seamlessly. That’s challenging with wearable tech. With mobile and desktop, you have common reflexes to draw on to make the workflow intuitive. Simple things like taking a picture can be confusing on Wearables at first. There are no best practices to start with, but that leaves room to explore and make a real impact.

At Shop X, deploying as a Wearable First application was equally challenging, but ultimately worth the effort. We were conditioned by Mobile First, and it was hard to reach outside our comfort zone. But when we dropped our Mobile First approach and really focused on Glass, it became very clear how we had to prioritize development such that the best user experience for Shop X would be on Google Glass. The key is to really forget about Mobile and Desktop and just focus on Wearables.

Wearable First certainly seems like a gamble at this stage, but we’re convinced it’ll pay off in the long run. Our advice? Don’t worry about market size for now. Carve out a niche, and build a great product that directly aligns its UX with your hardware medium of choice. Many sectors are begging to be disrupted by wearable technology—education, exercise, and health care just to name a few—but what they need are Wearable First software solutions designed to optimize and shape the wearable experience.

This article on Wearable First was co-authored by Ryan Kopinsky, co-founder of Shop X, Adriana Vecchioli, founder of Find.It, and Lucas Lindsey, community manager at Domi Ventures.