Designing for Small Devices

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Baianat team is eager to share with you this case study on “designing for mini devices”. Lately, Apple launched the new “Apple Watch”, paving the way to a new era of technology, making the world smaller yet smarter. This case study tackles this new technological wave, especially in matters of design concepts.

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This evolutionary technological wave provokes many questions on the main objective/ purpose behind mini devices..

In fact, most of these mini devices do not have their own separate apps. Instead, they are complementary devices developed to access certain apps in your smartphone in order to fulfil tasks in smarter and faster manner.

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The core objective when designing for mini devices is to make up an interactive and simple interface suitable for both device small size and human use.

When designing process takes place, there are some obstacles. There is no way out of these obstacles but just to handle them and come up with the best design and practice for human use.

The main obstacles are :

  • Very small space allocated for designing in many device (e.g. Apple Watch display space is only 1.5/1.6 inches).
  • Ratio between the human finger size and the design components.
  • No need to have too much text content and CTAs.
  • Users may get confused when using too many colors in a small display space.
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In order to get over these obstacles and create suitable, usable and elegant design, you should follow the steps below :

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Bear in mind that your design in for humans.

In the main, your designs are UCD (User Centric Designs). The product itself is created to serve the user. When designing for mini devices, the core focus is usability.

Since mini devices. like Apple Watch, were designed to be used with one’s “index finger”, suitable UI components need to be introduced.

Human index finger ratio is 1.6 - 2 cm. This means the target is 45:57 pixels for width.

While designing UI components for mini devices, make sure not to make these components too limited for the user; if a user finds these components not easily usable or not fitting device display size, he would think hundreds of times before using them again.

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When it comes to usability, “typing” should also be considered. It is difficult to do typing on small sizes. Fitting a keyboard/ keypad to 1.5/1.6 inches-display with a touch target of 50 pixels is never an easy job.

Therefore, the best way to solve this problem is to apply “Text-To-Speech” technology to your device. Note that it has to be extremely accurate to fulfill your needs as user.

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KISS

Nothing here has to do with lips :D . KISS means “Keep It So Simple”. Designing for mini devices should not be overcrowded by endless number of components, rather is has to be simple and reductive to fit into the small display space.

Here are some tips to Keep It So Simple :

  • Never put too much inconvenient content.
  • Simplify graphic components (flat design is very suitable for this type).
  • Line or wired icons are very suitable for mini devices too.
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Do not use too many colors in your designs.

Use sound notifications instead of text ones for more clear UI.

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Use wide white/negative spaces to make icons clearer.

Use thin and simple fonts like Roboto, SF compact, Helvetica….etc.

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Interactive UCD

Because these mini devices are made for people, they have to be interactive; to avoid user’s feeling bored. In addition, these devices have to be very light for better performance. Interactions in mini devices may be using light animations, attractive transitions between apps, bright colors, smart notification systems and many other techniques.

Conclusion

It is left to say that mini devices like Apple Watch are mainly used as “complementary devices” helping the user to fulfill his/her tasks in a smarter manner. Thus, you have to keep them usable, simple, clear and interactive. One final tip; Do never forget they are developed to be used by people !

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