Apple Watch UX Fail

So much for not blocking the screen!

Update 9/10/2014

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday during Apple’s announcement of the Apple Watch, they went on and on about how the screen wasn’t obstructed by our fat fingers because they invented the “digital crown”—a phrase so pretentious I can only use it with an eye roll.

Today they’ve addressed the left-handed issue with software as everyone, including me, assumed they would. There was never any reason to assume that they orientation of the UI would behave any differently than the iPhone and iPad. Oh and you can flip the straps around. Who cares? That’s never been an issue for left-handed people wearing watches.

The elephant in the room that I noticed during the announcement is that the “digital crown” is too close to the button and it protrudes enough to get in the way.

"Digital Crown" gets in the way
“Digital Crown” gets in the way and leads to unintended zooming.

Basic usability says that you do not place interactive elements so close together that you can accidental touch the wrong one. It’s a rule I followed when designing kiosk touch screens and it applies in real world design as well.

As a left-handed person, I can assure you that, nine times out of ten, we’re going to brush against the “crown” when we attempt to press the button.  The unintended zooming will a constant source of frustration and no software solution is going to fix this problem.

The solution is simple, elegant, and works for everyone but we won’t see it until Apple Watch 2.0. Sigh. Move the darn button to the opposite side.

Predicting Apple Watch 2.0
Predicting Apple Watch 2.0

So I still contend that this is a UX fail. Any usability study with appropriate demographics for both right- and left-handed people would have discovered this. Period.

6 Replies to “Apple Watch UX Fail”

  1. I’m sure you can just turn it upside around, put top strap on bottom and bottom on top, and the interface appears the other way around for lefties (with the knob pointing left instead of right). Do you see any reason to believe that’s not the case? Apple isn’t nearly as perfect as the fanboys like to imagine, but they’ve never made an oversight as large as forgetting lefties…

    1. I’ve never said that I thought Apple wouldn’t address this problem with software or that people aren’t smart enough to flip the watch around to wear it on their right hands. It’s very apparently from the way the iPhone and iPad work that the display will orient properly.

      However, the physical location of the “crown” and the button will be problematic for left-handers. The crown sticks out so much that it’s very likely that left-handers will brush against it every time they go to press the button. This will cause inadvertent zooming.

      Placing the button on the opposite side of the watch would have solved the problem without inconveniencing right-handers. So, I still contend that Apple did not adequately test this watch with people that choose to wear their watches on their right hands.

  2. are you sure that you will try to press the button the way you shown on the picture (using side of your finger not the fingertip)?

    1. It doesn’t matter which portion of the fingertip the user uses to touch the button. The proximity of the large, protruding “crown” must be navigated for the left-handed user to reach it. This requires more focus from that user.

      When we only fiddled with the buttons on our watches twice a year due to time changes it was no big deal. The Apple Watch demonstration indicates that the user will be fiddling with these buttons, conservatively, dozens of times a day. The cumulative frustration of hitting the “crown” (and disrupting the display) is a usability issue and one that I never expected from Apple. As I said above, simple usability testing should have uncovered this issue.

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