Principles of Designing Wearables We Love

In preparation for their panel at the 2017 SXSW, “Beyond the Interface: Designing Wearables We Love” each panelist explored the shortcomings and pain points of the wearables in market and came to an-obvious-yet-still-so-often-overlooked conclusion: we need to move beyond the interface and design with the user in mind. Here they have compiled six guiding principles for designers – those who seek the user experience paradigms that are essential to building desirable wearables.

My body is not an iPhone
“Wearables today require you to swipe, tap, pinch and press, awkwardly treating your body like a life-sized touch screen.  Instead of borrowing from past frameworks (mobile devices) that are ill- suited for the body, consider establishing your own rules for how you want your wearable to behave, and what type of relationship—not just interactions—you will have with it.” – Syuzi

There's a time and a place
“By their very definition, wearables are worn on our body and have intimate contact with us, which creates both challenges and opportunities.” – Steven
“Wearables need to consider the simultaneous and overlapping intimate, social and public spaces where interactions and communications occur. Designers must balance what types of information wearables collect, how that information is accessed and, ultimately, how it is shared.” – Syuzi

Context > Tech
“Even when wearables are hidden from view, we expect them to be both comfortable to wear and compatible with our bodies, creating a unique challenge for designers. When wearables are visible, we must be conscious of the message they inevitably send about the wearer, indicating a deliberate fashion choice and point of view. The inherent intimacy of wearables comes with the opportunity to sense, communicate and finally, to  enhance the user experience.” – Steven
“Do we want to live in a world that treats people’s bodies as illuminated billboards or doesn’t take into consideration our neighbor’s privacy? I certainly hope not.” – Syuzi

The Art of Cohesion
“Anchor your core experience around user needs and design accordingly—from hardware to software. In the same way that users do not differentiate between an online and offline experience, they do not differentiate between software and hardware.” – Syuzi

Connected not constrained
“Most wearables are too individualistic. We have been neglecting the role wearables may have in connecting and communicating with others in everyday context. People will love wearables that provide a sense of freedom, offering support only when needed, over wearables that aim to correct and control user behavior at all times. This way, people will also establish a more personal, and therefore longer lasting, relationship with the product.” – Pauline

Materials matter
“Choice in materials tells a story. They are what people touch, feel and remember and, in some cases, the differentiating factor between why a user will choose one product over another.” – Syuzi