I recently had the pleasure of attending General Assembly’s Future of Digital Conference in Sydney. Amongst the many speakers were Oliver Weidlich, founder of Mobile Experience, and Ben Moir, founder and director of Wearable Experiments. Both Oliver and Ben spoke about ‘wearable technology’ and how this is shaping the future within web and fashion design.
For many the word ‘wearables’ is still a pretty new term, but the signs are there, wearable technology could be the next big thing in the world of digital. When the mobile phone entered the market, it was thought that users would use their smart phones on the go, simply checking emails; no one knew if people would use it to browse the web and now look at us. With wearables, we need to work out how these tiny little devices can and will be used. Currently, smart watches are used in conjunction with our mobile phones allowing us to access information quicker and faster than ever before. Text messages and notifications take about 6 seconds to open and read; with new wearable technology you’re going to be at least 6 seconds closer to your user - it’s far quicker to lift your wrist than it is to take a phone from your pocket or bag.
People today want their information instantly and much faster than they currently get on their mobile device. They aren’t willing to hang around, so we need to be thinking about context and what the user actually needs at that precise moment. This realisation is creating a new paradigm - shifting our focus from mobile first to context first. As designers, developers and business owners there are new questions to consider: is the user wearing a fitness band? do they have sensors embedded into their clothing? are they sporting the latest in reality glasses? These new wearable devices will determine the type of information the user wants to receive and how they want to receive it. Some wearables won’t even have a screen, meaning the user will rely on the information being transferred to another of their devices. For example, somebody on a run wearing a fitness band, may want to record their heart rate and speed or map out the route of their run, but chances are they probably won’t want to stop and browse the web. It’s more important than ever that we know the exact needs of our user and deliver the information that they want as fast as we possibly can. This means stripping back any unnecessary content or elements that will slow down the site thus in turn slowing down the rate at which the user receives their information.
This new world of wearable technology is here to make our day much simpler and the data we create will be used by software companies to make our lives much more efficient. But for those working in the digital realm it may have just got a little harder. Adding in a few extra breakpoints through responsive design may not be enough, rethinking how we design and creating a solution that fits the screen size and device will be key to a seamless digital solution. Many wearables will be uniquely interactive and will require an individual approach that won’t be relevant for some devices.
Oliver Weidlich of Mobile Experience touched on the subject of tweak points rather than breakpoints and how the design needs to adapt. Someone viewing your site on a watch on their wrist will have different requirements than somebody sat in front of a desktop. The distance at which the device is viewed needs to be considered so text sizes and other individual elements will require tweaking to suit the device. Design will need to be minimal and content considered, interfaces need to be clean, functional and intuitive. Keep the user happy, nobody wants to sift through a heap of unnecessary images and content before they get to what they need.
In short, we need to be prepared, wearable tech is about to hit and we need to be ready. You won’t want to fall by the wayside like those companies that haven’t yet considered a responsive or mobile site. Our approach to how we design and develop for these wearables will require a lot of new considerations and interactivity will play a big part, users will be interacting with the web like never before and the experience we propose will need to be more personal than ever to suit the needs of our tech savvy customers.