While attending a recent Louisville UX meetup, I was lucky enough to demo Google Glass, Google Cardboard (a virtual reality device), various smart watches, as well as take a sneak peek at an app being developed for the yet to be released Apple Watch. My biggest takeaway? Your device’s feature-set had better be need-based and targeted.
Defining the User Persona
It has long been good marketing practice to do research to determine your target audience, what kind of person he or she is, what are his or her likes / dislikes, etc. With wearables, this information is more vital than ever.
Luckily, with wearables in their infancy state and the fact that many are focused on niche markets, defining the user persona is easily focused. If the product is designed for consumption in the fitness arena, some likely characteristics of the user are readily apparent. Additionally, as with all new technology, most wearables are at a higher a price point. Knowing this, along with the general purchasing habits of early technology adopters, helps to further narrow the target audience.
Why are wearable personas more vital?
In short, the answers to this question are size and adoption rate. As of now, the main two wearable devices are eyewear and watches. The smart watches I was able to play with had an estimated screen size of a little over a half dollar coin. I generally used my pinky finger to tap on the screens and I was still clicking on roughly a quarter of the available screen.* The entire display for the Google Glass would have easily fit on my pinky finger from the last knuckle to the tip of my finger.
Clearly, we are not talking about huge interfaces that can be packed with options. This makes defining the persona and feature set of the device/software critical. There is absolutely no space to waste.
Someone has to break the mold
Do you remember when it was extremely rude to answer a text during a conversation?
It might be hard for some to imagine, but – in the not too distant past – that was the case. The act of checking a text during a conversation now is so engrained that most people barely even notice it.
It is now an accepted social practice to allow a person time to check the message so that they can exclude themselves from the in-person interaction, send a quick reply or file the information of the text away for later action.
How did we get to the new social standard?
Simple: early adopters, increased comfort levels with the device and the speed at which we could complete the texting interaction. The early adopters of texting were the younger users of the technology, so – by default – their social norms were less defined and rigid than older users. This allowed for those people to embrace the sending and receiving of text messages. Then, as the overall adoption rate for the technology increased, comfort levels did as well, which led to a higher volume texts being sent by a larger percentage of the overall population. Meaning the need for people to interact with text messages increased, so the social standard has evolved.
What does that have to do with anything?
The gentleman who demonstrated his Google Glass had them mounted to his prescription glasses. This makes perfect sense, as I have already described the minute size of the device display. A technology crazed person like myself would probably not think twice about seeing his Glass mounted right on his glasses. If anything, I would probably go up and try to ask questions about it or ask if I could wear them. In many cases, that was exactly what happened, However, a former Notre Dame coach happened to see him wearing Google Glass and went irate because he thought that the device was constantly being used as a video camera (it was not).
That reaction is a perfect demonstration of some of the social stigmas that may exist in society. Just as it was once rude to text during a conversation, many wearable devices will be met with varying levels of acceptance until the need for the usage of the device outweighs societal stigmas or pressures.
Earlier, I mentioned that I was able to preview an app for the unreleased Apple Watch. The main points I took away from the preview were: It is really hard to run user testing on a device that does not yet physically exist, and the device is designed for microinteractions.
The Apple Watch is not just a condensed iPhone in the same manner that an iPhone is a very small computer. While you can check text messages on your watch, it is not easy or efficient to send a message on a tiny touch screen. And the device is not designed to operate that way. Basically, the Apple Watch would allow you to quickly glance down at your wrist upon getting the text notification instead of having to dig your phone out of the pocket of your (skinny?) jeans or purse.
That microinteraction might not sound very helpful at all until you consider being in an important meeting and getting a notification. If you are a parent or have a spouse, it would be really nice to quickly check the message to make sure your family is OK with just a quick glance at your wrist as opposed to getting out your phone.
As you can see, UX is absolutely critical in all marketing practices, including wearables. The better you know your consumer, the better you can tailor your message and the better your chance becomes to make a sell. UX is a vital cog in our practices here at Current360 and we look forward to helping you.
* I’m 6’1″ with hands some have likened to bear claws, so it might not be as large a percentage for you.