I recently spent some time crafting an Apple Watch extension for my interval timer app TuneTime. Of course, being the good little Apple devellper that I am, I wanted this app to be out on launch day which meant no testing on a real device.
Being relegated to the Apple Watch simulator wasn’t ideal, “but hey, I’m a clever developer, I’ll make it work” I enthusiastically said to myself as I fired up Xcode. A few nights and weekends later I had v1 of the TuneTime Apple Watch extension ready to go.
The Apple Watch app gives you some condensed information about the workout you’re currently doing as well as the ability to play, pause, skip or go back in the song selection. It worked perfectly in the simulator, and I happily submitted it early, subsequently having it approved well ahead ofrelease day.
Fast forward a few weeks and I’m the proud new owner of my very own baby blue Developer “Special Offer” Apple Watch (that my mother affectionately describes as “girly”). Time to test my own apps to see if my design holds up on the real mccoy. Well, the app itself works great, maintaining accurate time with the timer on the iPhone and keeping all the stats fresh. But, there’s one problem, those buttons that looked sufficiently large on the simulator it turns out, are really tiny and freaking hard to tap on a 42mm screen.
Ok, so the buttons need to be more tappable, but they already take just about the full width of the screen across, so how do i make this work? Answer: Force Touch -> the built-in contextual menu. I did not even come close to realizing how much of an integral UX function this mechanism is on Apple Watch until I owned one. Force Touch is quick to activate and feels just as natural as any other interaction on the watch. And, best of all, the contextual menu presents your options in full screen mode, occupying as much space as possible given the number of buttons you’re presenting, and increasing the overal tap area by a huge margin.
I’m still not quite sure if everyone is as Force Touch curious as I am, trying it out on seemngly every app, so I also added a short message to make sure the user knows they can access the play controls as such. I toyed with the idea of something more visually pleasing, such as an icon indicator, but there’s nothing more clear than a short blurb of text, so there you have it.
If you’re a developer, do consider this mechanism when designing your Apple Watch apps. See “Configuring the Context Menu” in the WKInterfaceController Class Reference for more info on how to get started. Alternatively, if you’re just an Apple Watch owner trying to make the best of your new toy, cough excuse me, productivity device, be sure to Force Touch all over the place. For more details on some cool things Force Touch can do on Apple Watch, have a look at this article: 15 Force Touch features you should use on your Apple Watch
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