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This is how Apple wants you to design Apple Watch apps

Tim Cook Apple Watch Apps
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
App prototypes from September’s Apple Watch unveil.
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Apple’s watch likely won’t launch for several months, but today the company laid out design guidelines for software developers looking to start building Apple Watch apps.

In guideline documents released today, Apple says its watches are designed to “blur the boundaries between physical object and software.” But it looks like Apple also wants to blur any differences between Apple apps and third-party apps, encouraging simplicity and consistency.

A few key points:

  • Apple wants Watch apps to focus on one thing at a time. “If you measure interactions with your iOS app in minutes, you can expect interactions with your Watch app to be measured in seconds.”
  • Although it’s not required, Apple recommends that all Watch apps have black backgrounds and use the custom font it designed for the watch. Specifically, Apple argues that apps should all use black backgrounds so that they blend “seamlessly with the device bezel” and make it seem like the screen has no edge.
  • Apple wants developers to use color sparingly, only for accenting text and branding. Apple also wants developers to use icons instead of text as often as possible, for buttons in apps or notifications, and in the contextual menus accessed using an interaction called Force Touch.

It’ll be interesting to see how quickly these recommendations are ignored—and whether Apple blocks early apps that don’t follow along. The restrictive design recommendations seem to be in contrast to iOS devices, where developers are freer to design apps how they please, as long as their apps have “aesthetic integrity.” The iOS App Store has matured to include a wide range of design, ranging from those that mimic Apple’s own apps to those that are entirely custom—or even look more like Android apps.

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