Optimizing Notifications on Wearables

User retention is a hard enough concept to grasp on mobile. Putting these best practices to use on wearable apps is an entirely new ballgame.

notifications on wearables

Image source: Flickr, user: Kārlis Dambrāns

Wearable devices include fitness trackers, smartwatches, virtual reality sets and of course, Google Glass. Wearables have faced a slow start in the market, but are rising in popularity, with more developers creating apps for these new devices. Unfortunately, apps on wearables face challenges just like apps on mobile, such as limited screen real estate. Grabbing the attention of inactive users can be difficult, so developers should carefully consider their user retention strategies.

We covered user retention for mobile in a previous post. Now, it’s time to examine how user retention adapts for new devices.


“If you can repurpose your app

for wearables, do it now.


Notifications on wearables

At its I/O conference earlier this summer, Google introduced made-over notifications in the new Android “L.” In L, notifications are grouped together in intuitive combinations for easy viewing and dismissal. For instance, users can see all their texts in one easy swipe, rather than listed on the lock screen individually. As a bonus, users got a sneak peek of how these notifications display on Google’s smartwatch, Android Wear.

The introduction of notifications on Android Wear brought up an interesting topic. Wearables are much more obtrusive in day-to-day use; no one wants a pair of glasses that’s literally in your face constantly disrupting your real-world experience. Wearable notifications should seamlessly integrate without annoying the user, which sadly, is not what many mobile notifications can claim they do.

To make push notifications on wearables a more pleasant experience, we’ve come up with three rules to consider when designing them.

1. Make notifications straightforward

One of the arguments in favor of wearables is the convenience factor. It’s easier for a user to glance at a smartwatch than it is to pull their phone out of their pocket to learn why it’s vibrating. Notifications should use concise messages that are in line with this convenience. Health apps, for instance, could take advantage of push notifications by targeting users based on goals. Apps could sync with users’ alarms to give them an active start to the day, or send short messages reminding them they are only miles away from that week’s running goal. Above all, notifications should be easily understood.

2. Allow easy response to notifications

If a user misses a call, they should be able to dismiss the notification or send a pre-set text in one swipe. Especially when users are busy, they shouldn’t spend more than a second interacting with their device, and that includes unlocking the screen.

3. Create subtle notification alerts

Design is a fine line to walk with wearables. There’s already backlash against Google Glass and overly bulky smartwatches; functionality shouldn’t add to the struggle that appearance created. Users don’t want their wrist to buzz every few minutes, alerting them to new notifications. One company, Ringly, offers a new twist on wearable notifications. It produces rings that give subtle clues when its owner’s phone is going off. Apps can mimic this strategy by opting for discreet notifications, like faint glows rather than harsh sounds.

Wearables still have a long way to go before they catch on with the general population. Their unstylish design, niche audience and tendency to forget the human element currently hinder progression. Yet, as wearables evolve in upcoming years, they will continue to grow in popularity. Ad Age predicts that wearables will rocket to an $18 billion market by 2016, compared to its rocky $1 billion start in 2012. If you can repurpose your app for wearables, do it now, before the competition among similar apps rises.

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This is part of Kiip’s ongoing Developer Success Guide.

Kiip is a leader in the field of app monetization. We enable developers to reward their users with advertising they enjoy. We want all developers to be successful in their ventures, so we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide with industry observations, best practices and expert advice.  

To learn more about monetizing your app, visit kiip.me/developers or email us at success@kiip.me.

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