The Apple Watch’s tiny screen has already proven to be a boundless landscape for creatively organizing app icons, but one obsessive reddit user has created the most scientifically convenient app layout we’ve seen yet.
A redditor posted his “best app layout” explanation for the Apple Watch today.
It’s based on Fitts’s law, a scientific model of human behavior that basically says, “Time spent is relative to the size of the target and the distance you have to travel to get there.”
For applying Fitts’s law to the Apple Watch, the redditor thought about how difficult it was to tap the app icons on the wearable’s tiny screen.
“I don’t have fat fingers, but I found myself tapping the wrong app constantly,” he said. “I was being mindful, too, and still was hitting the app adjacent at least one out of every five taps.”
He came up with the idea that “the best way to shorten interaction time on the app screen is give yourself more space for error.” The less of a chance there was for accidentally tapping another app, the better.
So he turned his home screen into a series of circles. Six apps form a circle with an empty space inside it.
The circle approach makes getting to apps a lot quicker than forming a giant line of icons or some other weird shape.
Another plus is that you’ll significantly cut back on the risk of tapping the wrong icon by mistake. “Once you get used to aiming for the app you want but on the side that’s facing the space, you’ll pretty much eliminate most accidental taps,” he said.
Start with the Watch icon dead center and build circles going out diagonally. The first circle contains your most-used apps.
Building out horizontally could work, too, but he found that diagonally felt more natural to his finger. The Digital Crown helps you zoom in and out on circles if need be.
It’s a pretty smart layout for saving time on small interactions.
It’s helpful to organize your apps “partly by the category they belong in and partly by the frequency of use.” The more an app is used, the closer it is to the center circle with the Watch’s icon. You could cluster around ideas or categories of apps, like travel or productivity.
If an app has a Glance you’re using, you won’t have to manually find its icon very often. So leave it in an outside circle and forget about it.
For the redditor who came up with this theory, saving time on completing actions is what the Watch is all about.
“The thing people say the most when they know you got a watch is that ‘you can do all of it on the iPhone.’ It’s, of course, true. But the reason I got the Apple Watch is Fitts’s law. Each ten seconds you’re saving per day per app is an hour saved a year.”
How to change Apple Watch app layout for ease and productivity
Apple Watch is undoubtedly one of the smartest gadgets, with many handy apps to boost your productivity. However, I find it difficult to find the specific app on the Watch due to its small screen size. And the option to magnify the app layout is not feasible every time.
If you are like me, don’t worry! Apple makes it easier to change the Watch app layout as per your preference. This article will help you learn how to do it. Let’s get started.
How to change the app layout on Apple Watch
You can arrange all Apple Watch icons in two ways:
- List view – As the name suggests, it lists all apps in alphabetical order. You scroll up or down to find an app.
- Grid view – The app icons create a honeycomb-like structure. Move your finger across the screen to locate an app.
You can switch between the two layouts and test them yourself. Just go to Settings → App View → select the layout.
I prefer the Grid view as it is more flexible. You can’t change the app order in the List view.
Organize apps on Apple Watch
- Press the Digital Crown to bring up the Home Screen.
- Touch and hold any app to enter the jiggle mode.
- Now, drag and drop the app icon to the desired location.
- When done, press the Digital Crown to save the changes.
While the process of organizing apps on your Apple Watch is quite simple, it gets laborious when you want to move multiple apps due to the small screen size.
In that case, you can rearrange apps from your paired iPhone as well.
How to rearrange apps on Apple Watch from iPhone
- Launch the Watch app on your iPhone.
- Tap App View from the My Watch tab.
- Select Arrangement to proceed.
- Touch and hold the app icon you want to move.
- Now, drag and drop it to the desire location.
The changes will automatically sync to your Apple Watch. What’s great is that you don’t have to stick to the honeycomb structure. Instead, you have the freedom to make a unique structure, from triangles and hearts to arrows and beyond.
Besides aesthetics, it can help you arrange apps as per usage, categories, icon colors, or other factors. Thus, it will become easier to find apps more efficiently. See a few examples of the app layouts in the next section.
Apple Watch app layout ideas and tricks
While it is fun and helpful, I should warn you that making a custom shape is slightly tricky and time-consuming. When you move an app icon, others icons rush to fill that space. So you’ll have to handle it carefully.
Here’re some amazing Apple Watch app layout ideas I tried and loved:
- Time-saving hourglass
- Triangles of productivity
- It’s mission time with Mr. X
- For the love of Christmas
- Home is where the heart is
- Tricks to achieve the best app layout on Apple Watch
1. Time-saving hourglass
The idea: Organize icons as per priority, most used apps at the center, around the clock icon. Other essential apps in the top pyramid and the rest at the bottom.
2. Triangles of productivity
The idea: Club similar icons in triangles, one for health apps, productivity, communication, etc. This way, you’ll know exactly where to move your finger for particular apps.
3. It’s mission time with Mr. X
The idea: Important apps form the center of the X for easier access. As for the extended arms, you can arrange them as per the theme, category, etc.
4. For the love of Christmas
The idea: Regularly used apps in the upper half of the triangle as it is easier to locate and tap icons when there are a few. Rest all apps can crowd the lower section.
5. Home is where the heart is
The idea: Essential apps in the center of the heart and there onwards, spread them according to priority or genre.
Tricks to achieve the best app layout on Apple Watch
- Concentrate on the center: No matter how elaborate your shape is, the screen will always show the center part. So, plan your shape and app placements accordingly.
Note: To view the whole design at once, rotate the Digital Crown to zoom out.
- Play Smart: When making a custom shape, don’t start by placing apps where you want them, as they usually get displaced multiple times during the process. Construct the shape with any icon, and then replace it with the one you want.
- Don’t crowd: Ensure your Apple Watch app list consists of apps you really need. It will ease your work of organizing and finding the apps quickly. If you have several, delete the unnecessary apps as they will already be present on your iPhone.
That’s it! Now all you have to do is wear your thinking hat, decide the hierarchy of your apps and get them organized for easier access.
Also, don’t forget to share your custom Apple Watch app layouts with us on our social media channels – Instagram and Twitter. If we love your ideas, we’ll add them to this list with special credits.
Other Apple Watch guides:
iGeeksBlog has affiliate and sponsored partnerships. We may earn commissions on purchases made using our links. However, this doesn’t affect the recommendations our writers make. You can read more about our review and editorial process here.
Apps display the same interface on all sizes of Apple Watch, adjusting the layout as necessary. You can often use the same layout on screens that have similar areas. For example, the 40mm and 42mm screens offer approximately the same amount of space; similarly, the 41mm and 44mm screens offer about the same amount of space. The 38mm, on the other hand, offers less space, while the 45mm offers considerably more, so you may want to adjust your layout for these screens.
41mm (Series 7 and later)
45mm (Series 7 and later)
40mm (Series 4, 5, and 6)
44mm (Series 4, 5, and 6)
38mm (Series 1, 2, and 3)
42mm (Series 1, 2, and 3)
Show the same content, regardless of display size. Use relative sizing and Dynamic Type to ensure that items expand or contract naturally to fill the available space. It’s also best to use the same image for all display sizes; for guidance, see Image Optimization.
Support autorotation in views people might want to show others. When people flip their wrist away, apps typically respond to the motion by sleeping the display, but in some cases it makes sense to autorotate the content. For example, a wearer might want to show an image to a friend or display a QR code to a reader. For developer guidance, see isAutorotating.
Avoid displaying too much information onscreen at the same time. People want to see the most important information instantly, so you don’t want to clutter the screen with nonessential details. People can easily access secondary information by scrolling.
Create visual groupings to help people find the information they want. For example, use negative space and separator lines to place related elements and information into distinct areas.
Use the full width of the screen. Design your content to extend from one edge of the screen to the other. The Apple Watch bezel provides a natural visual padding around your content. To avoid wasting valuable space, you can also minimize the padding between elements.
Avoid placing more than two or three controls side by side in your interface. As a general rule, display no more than three buttons that contain glyphs — or two buttons that contain text — in a row. Although it’s usually better to let text buttons span the full width of the screen, two side-by-side buttons with short text labels can also work well, as long as the screen doesn’t scroll.
Left align elements. Left-aligned text is easier to read, while vertical stacks of buttons with text labels — especially multiline labels — are often more scannable.
Designing for Rounded Corners
Beginning with Apple Watch Series 4, the screen has rounded corners, which can clip content that’s displayed too close to the edge. The top corners are typically blocked off by the navigation bar, and the clock and the app’s title are inset to avoid the rounded corners. The system uses these insets to define margins that both SwiftUI and WatchKit use to help you lay out your content.
SwiftUI and WatchKit also respect a one-pixel boundary that the system defines at the side edges of the screen. Although text should align with the margins so that it remains legible at a glance, graphic elements and button backgrounds can extend beyond the margins and up to this one-pixel boundary. For developer guidance, see edgesIgnoringSafeArea(_:) (SwiftUI) and systemMinimumLayoutMargins (WatchKit).
As shown above, the system defines the content safe area as the region below the navigation bar and above the rounded corners at the bottom of the screen. To avoid clipping, the list rows, buttons, and other scrolling content should settle within the content safe area. For developer guidance, see safeAreaInsets (SwiftUI) and contentSafeAreaInsets (WatchKit).
When you use system containers and controls, SwiftUI and WatchKit automatically lay out and manage the contents relative to the margins and safe areas, so that your user interface appears in an optimal location on the screen.
If you create a custom layout using full-screen SpriteKit or SceneKit elements, you need to position your content according to the device’s minimum layout margins and content safe areas. It’s also a good idea to create your own one-pixel boundaries to avoid half-pixel aliasing at the screen edges.
Designing for Apple Watch
Designing for the Apple Watch is completely different from designing for iOS. We need to understand different aspects which make Apple Watch an amazing minicomputer and at the same time, an extension of the iPhone.
As designers, we need to consider the size of the screen of the Apple Watch and understand that the design is completely different from the iPhone. This is so important since the screen size brings new gestures and new UI/UX considerations.
Designing for Apple Watch
Perhaps, the first experience that we all have with Apple Watch is when we receive a notification. It is a pretty awesome experience as a user to act directly from the Watch without reaching for your phone. What makes this experience so good? Overall what makes the experience so personal is the watchOS Design Themes:
There are also some principles you need to consider the moment you start designing apps, we'll talk about these below.
ASK YOURSELF A QUESTION
Identify what is essential to show on your Watch App. Find that feature that is special to the end user. Ask yourself: What is the most important thing that the user would like to see at a glance? This is key for you to understand. If your App is about the weather, the question should be; How is the weather today? In the end, your design should answer that question.
You need to understand that your design will answer the main question that you are trying to solve with your App, so keep it short, essential and focused.
Ok, you have a great design for your Apple Watch App. People seem to love it. Don't stop there, you always keep asking yourself; How can we make this better? There are always new and creative ways to come up with better designs for your users.
Apple Watch apps have two types of notifications: short-look and long-look interface.
The user first receives a notification, which is the short-look interface. This notification is visible for a brief time, if the user wants to dismiss it, they can lower their wrist. If they want to see the more detailed information they can raise their wrist and tap on the short-look interface.
Apple Watch design essentials
Apple offers some great resources for you to start designing for the Apple Watch, for design tools like Sketch, Adobe XD and Photoshop.
Qualities of great Apple Watch experiences
You need to plan carefully when you start designing your Apple Watch App. There is a nice video from Apple which gives some tips and tricks to best plan your App.
The best way to evaluate your App is to think about accomplishing these 4 points:
The user needs to understand at first glance what is the information you are displaying.
Get straight to the point. Remember that you will have just a few seconds between the moment your users receive your app notifications and raise their wrist.
Show the most relevant information to the user in the smallest amount of time as possible. Like that, you are making your App more relevant for the user.
If your App accomplishes the first three elements, your user will feel a personal connection. Ideally, try to deepen this relationship with the user.
You need to choose a global color for your app which is consistent to your app in other devices such as the iPhone. Apple suggests to consider some of the following aspects:
- Use black for your app’s background color because it blends with the Apple Watch bezel and creates the illusion of an edgeless screen.
- Be aware of color blindness and how different cultures perceive color.
- Try to avoid using color as the only way to show interactivity.
Apple Watch comes in two sizes: 38 mm and 42 mm. So you need to use one image source file for both display sizes.
To design for the Apple Watch you need to use two type of fonts. SF Compact is the system font for watchOS and SF Compact Rounded is designed to work with complications. You can read more about it on Apple's HIG.
There are different type of icons for the Apple Watch: Home Screen Icon, Notification Center Icon, Short-Look Icon, App Store Icon and Companion Settings Icon. To know the specific size for each one of the Apple Watch models you can refer to the Human Interface Guidelines.
To date, Apple has four different sizes of watch. And as a designer you need to create a version of the icon for each one of the watches. You can learn more about it in the Human Interface Guidelines.
Apple watch app icons
Asset Catalog Creator Pro can create a full set of icons for Apple Watch and Apple's different platforms. It can really help you speed up your design process.
As for any other app, you need to optimize your app’s images. Apple recommends you to use de-interlaced PNG files for bitmap/raster and artwork. Also, try to avoid transparency because the alpha channel increases the file size. You can use an 8-bit color palette for PNG graphics that don’t require full 24-bit colors. This palette is not appropriate for photos.
Colors, fonts and icons are important parts to customize your app but there are essentials rules you need to follow:
- Try to always express your brand identity through your font, color and image choices. These will help you create a unique style.
- Avoid displaying your logo in your app.
- Don’t include a launch screen.
- If you use different Typography, make sure it is legible. For more information, you can read the Typography Page.
- Avoid filling background areas with logos or brand colors.
- Use your brand color for your app’s global tint color.
Apple Watch Animation in AE
Let’s open After Effects. Here, create a new composition sized 1920 x 1080 with 3 seconds of duration and name it Apple Watch Animation.
Then, drag and drop the assets to the new composition that is provided in the exercise file
Select background.png, notification.png, App title and logo.png. Then, right click and select PreCompose to create a new composition with those elements. Let’s call the new composition Notification.
Then, edit the composition settings and make sure to change the dimensions of the composition to 551x672.
Now, organize the assets in the following order so it can be easier to work with them.
- App title, 2. Logo, 3. Notification and 4. Background
Next, select logo.png, place the keyframes position and the Scale with the following configuration. Position: 0.10 frames | 275.5, 864.0, 0.20 frames | 275.5, 277.0, 0.27 frames | 275.5, 293.0, 1.05 frames | 275.5, 293.0 and 1.20 frames 101.8, | 99. On Scale, add two keyframes in 1.05 frames → 100% and on 1.20 frames → 40% opacity.
Let’s add some more frames for Position for the notification.png layer. For 1.05 frames | 275.5, 1010.0 and for 1.20 frames 275.5, 336.0.
Select the App title.png layer, then go to the parent section and select 2. Logo.png.
Add some opacity keyframes to the App title.png layer, following this order on 1.05 frames → 1 100% opacity and on 1.20 frames → 0% opacity.
Now, let's add Easy Ease to the keyframes. Select all the keyframes, then right click on any of them, go to Keyframes Assistant > Easy Ease.
Let's add a subtle detail to the animation. Select the first position keyframe of logo.png and open the graph editor which is the last small icon above the Stretch column. Inside the graph editor, extend influence to 75% which is the the speed entrance curve.
As you can see in the following image we have the entrance curve a little more extended. Now, let's go to the frame 1.05 and select all the keyframes from that frame for all the different layers. Then, go to the graph editor and extend the end curve to 79.67%.
Head back to the main Comp called Apple Watch Animation and let’s scale it to 55% so it can fit in the watch layer.
Then, select the alpha mask.png and in the Parent & Link section, link it to 2. notification.
Set the position of the notification to 950.0 on X axis and 543.0 on Y axis.
Lastly, select the composition named Notification and in the Track Matte option, select the option Alpha Matte "alpha mask.png".
Summing up, it is important that you as a designer can keep in mind that your design should constantly answer one question: What is the most important thing that the user will like to see at a brief glance? Lastly, always consider these 4 qualities: legible, concise, timely and personal.
Design app layout apple watch
One man has devised a 'scientifically perfect' layout for organizing apps on the Apple Watch
A Reddit user has innovated a possibly scientifically perfect layout for organizing your apps on your Apple Watch, to address the widespread problem of users mistakenly tapping on the app adjacent to their desired app.
Basing his theory on Fitts’s Law, a scientific model of Human-Computer interaction, the Reddit user has shared a unique method of arrangement that gives the user more space for error, which in turn, results in greater tapping accuracy and shortened period of time spent interacting with the screen.
This seemingly intuitive layout consists of the apps being arranged in a series of circles. Starting with the watch icon right in the center, users will build their first and subsequent circles starting from their most-used apps to the least.
Read the full-blown theory here.
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