Apple Watch appeared on the market of high technologies not a long time ago (less than three years passed since the release of Apple Watch Series 1) and have already acquired the status of the most successfully sold wearable device in modern history for such a short period of time. Combining many functions in addition to usual watch (fitness tracking, communication, messaging, etc.), this mini-computer paired with iPhone has truly become an indispensable assistant for many of its owners. This fact indicates that in the next few years the creation of applications for the WatchOS platform will become a new full-fledged field of activity for software developers. It’s worth mentioning that many IT companies today are in active search of professional web designers for hire, who have proper qualifications for creating a qualitative UI, which would not fall behind the overall WatchOS design idea. In this article, we’ll talk about what requirements should one meet to design apps for Apple Watch.

Read also: Should You Develop an App for Smartwatch?

Design Guidelines for Apple Watch: Building a Proper Interface

Apple has eased the task for each designer by releasing its own design guidelines for Apple Watch, which outline the main requirements and wishes for the frontend of the future smartwatch application.

Compact and Correct Controls Arrangement

Graphics are not always the best choice for displaying controls. Before creating an application, it is necessary to grasp most accurately the essence of the concept that formed the basis of WatchOS products. So, due to the extreme compactness of these smart watches, the applications created for them should provide simple navigation. They, like their older brothers, iPhones, react to pressing and touching; in addition, the watch can be controlled by means of the Digital Crown wheel (for scrolling and increasing/decreasing screen elements) and the swinging button (for calling 12 predefined users). Anyway, the main function of managing your future application will be taken over by the elements displayed on the screen (namely those controlled sensory). This means that the user interface visible to the owner of Apple Watch should carry the maximum informativeness. Therefore, in applications with rich functionality, the usual text menu lists are preferred to buttons, which take up a lot of space on a screen.


Hierarchical navigation is the optimal way of semantic information grouping. In order not to fill the entire screen with menu options or buttons, you can use elements grouping in a hierarchical order. It is desirable that there are no more than three links in each such hierarchical chain (otherwise, due to the small size of the touch screen, initially users will simply struggle to remember the path to the desired functionality of your software).

The correct arrangement of buttons and text is a guarantee of a convenient navigation. Due to the limited screen width (272 and 312 pixels, depending on the Apple Watch model), it is not recommended to place more than three buttons with textual names on the same line. The distance between buttons and adjacent text containers can be minimal. The only thing is that you should designate each separate semantic block via some visual separators (for example, lines or multi-colored background panels). In addition, Apple developers strongly recommend that the printed text is aligned to the left in order to facilitate the readability of the presented information.

Moderate use of text and graphics is the right way to develop an intuitive UI. It is not worth to clutter the originally small screen with numerous graphic elements and text blocks. It would be better if the user will scroll the page of your application independently, and not try to zoom each object that is poorly disсerned on the original scale.

The Adjusted Color Scale and Objects’ Form

Black background as an integral attribute of WatchOS. As you have already noticed, the current list of default applications for WatchOS is characterized by a black background color. Do not deviate from the developed stylistic concept of this OS. It would be much better to support it and supplement it with its own unique functionality. This means that the best choice for designating the background of your application will be the same black.

The predominance of light colors for fonts and buttons. In order for the application to be informative and UX to be pleasant, the background colors and the information displayed should be as much contrasty as possible. This does not mean that you only need to use white color fonts. Black background very successfully contrasts with both pastel and neon colors, the main thing is that the context of the displayed information should correspond to the color chosen for it, at least behind the scenes.


Color as the way to claim about your brand. Another advantage of the right shade is an ability to emphasize the design of your brand. Applications that are full of numerous images of logos and personalized fonts, in this case, are almost doomed to failure (read below why), so the color will be an ideal compromise for applications aimed at promoting the brand.

The color is not the only means of informing users. In addition to the correct shade, you can play with the shape of buttons and containers. In particular, WatchOS is characterized by a rectangular shape of these elements with rounded edges. And despite the adherence to the already approved concept of WatchOS design is a win-win solution for a developer, you can still experiment with the design of these controls.

Branding and displaying logos

The paramount task is the convenience of the user, not advertising your brand. Apple Watch user experience design should be aimed at providing convenience and quick functionality management. In particular, many unstated restrictions on Apple Watch design of applications result from a small display format. For example, such details of the visual interface part like logos will occupy a free space, which could be much more useful to place a menu item or a functioning button instead.

The splash screen is not the best choice for applications on WatchOS. One of the main ideas of the developers of Apple Watch was to provide the fastest dynamic interaction with the user. Therefore, unlike most applications for tablets and smartphones, this kind of software should immediately redirect the user to the functionality of his/her interest. Therefore, try not to use various distracting and slowing down elements of the application in the UI, for example, a graphic splash screen that appears every time the app starts.


Implementing your own fonts is not always justified. Apple is not only a big brand but also the embodiment of a carefully thought-out marketing model. In particular, Apple developers do not recommend to use much of your corporate fonts, which are part of your brand design. They can look indistinct in such a miniaturized scale, and simply be dissonant with the design of the WatchOS UI. Therefore, try to use the default fonts predefined in the WatchOS platform settings whenever possible.


As the authoritative source shows, the sales of products based on the WatchOS platform are steadily growing up every year. And this means that applications created for Apple Watch will be more and more in demand every year. That’s why a successful designing for Apple Watch can make your application exemplary for subsequent software solutions of this kind.

Design for Apple Watch: Tips and Guidelines
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