Designing for the Wrist

The Making of Yammer for Apple Watch

On a recent morning, one of our engineers here at Yammer came to me and asked, “Why haven’t we starting building something for the Apple Watch?”

Of course, my first response was: “Should we?”

Would we have enough adoption for the effort to be worthwhile?
Would this move us in the right direction for our product overall?
What would Yammer even be like on a watch? Should Yammer be on a watch?
We’re a product based on shared work communication and experience, can we be useful to our users in watch-form? And what’s the best way to define our UX strategy when it comes to wearables?
So we took a step back, and asked ourselves how our users today use different platforms, and how we personally perceive each platform.

Our data shows our web platform is the most popular, with mobile growing faster and faster every day. So how do our users use our mobile application? They check in on progress in their feeds, and reply quickly to things they can answer while saving the heavy lifting for our web platform (and yes, of course, there were exceptions to this as well).

But what about our potential third platform?

After wearing the Apple Watch for a week, I came to the conclusion that it’s great for finding out what’s going on right now.

It’s an amazing notification machine. It does a great job letting me know about things I care about, in general — but the things I really care about from my Apple Watch are things that are happening now.

What’s happening tomorrow, things that have already happened — that’s just noise.

So if our web platform is for digging in, and our mobile platform seems to be used mostly for consuming and quicker responses, maybe our wearables platform can be used for “now”.

We have three main areas in our phone apps: an Inbox, your Groups, and your notifications. Initially we considered surfacing Groups, but we ultimately canned that idea in favor of something more timely. We decided that Inbox and Notifications were the things to surface; communications directly mentioning you that are happening right now.

We looked at other messaging apps to see what they were doing, and talked about how we could provide useful information. Notifications were pretty easy and technically already taken care of by the OS. But Inbox could be really interesting, as we could not only provide the most recent post, but also provide some context around it. Giving that context could allow a user to decide what they want to do with the post in a very meaningful way.
The goal I wanted to achieve from a design perspective was to alert our users to “now,” and then, with a touch, bring them deeper into a conversation, and to see more context around the message they received. This would empower our users to make better decisions and triage quicker: dismissing the unimportant, giving quick responses to things that were lightweight, and transferring over to another device for things they thought needed to be addressed… now.

Though the limits inherent to designing on the Apple Watch — what gestures one can implement, strict guidelines around how to save power — reminded me of the work I did on apps I designed while iOS and Android were in their infancy, I think in the end we came up with a design that does exactly what it needs to in the space you’re given. If you’ve got an Apple Watch, try it out and let us know what you think!

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