The 6 R’s of helpful wearable design

After checking out the design principles of Android Wear, I found myself thinking particularly about the third principle, “Helpful”. Certainly in UX design a product needs to be helpful before anything else. But what does it mean to build helpful experiences for wearables, specifically?

<>To me, it seems that helpful wearable devices or wearable apps would do the following (the “6 R’s”):

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Shoe Buying & Augmented Reality

Finding the right pair of shoes can be a nightmare. It doesn’t matter if you’re concerned more with style or just have foot-structure needs, the act of buying a good pair of shoes can seem like an endless game of roulette., the popular online shoe retailer, has helped make this easier on the shoe buyer. With hassle-free returns and free shipping, you can try on–and send back–an unlimited number of shoes until you find the right pair. Many orders get upgraded to one-day shipping. And you can print out shipping labels and mail back using the same box, making Zappos shopping a timesaving alternative to the hours spent in a shoe store.

Zappos encouragement of try-on-and-return has helped catapult them to success. Many people will tell you that Zappos doesn’t even sell shoes, it sells customer service.

So we won’t argue that Zappos’s gets a gold star for encouraging returns. But I’d like to point out this kind of service only addresses the question, “How do we help customers return shoes that they don’t like?” Perhaps they should perhaps be addressing the question, “How do we help customers find the right shoe, on the first try?”

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Using 99Designs to Get VisDs to Think More Like IxDs

I recently indulged my iconography hobby by entering a contest on 99Designs, the crowdsourcing design website. I like to engage in these competitions for a few reasons:  the short timeframe forces me to hone my conceptualization and visual design skills, I get to work with people I wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to, and I get to try on something new.  The prospect of a decent cash prize doesn’t hurt.

99Designs’s contests make it easy for me to do all of this, without the hassle of vetting freelance clients. All I need is for someone to post a project, and participation is just a matter of judging the design brief, uploading a few files, and checking on the contest holder’s feedback and ratings.

The contest I recently participated in was for 3 application icons.  Instead of just diving into the work, I approached the problem from a more methodical standpoint.  I started with a word brainstorm, followed by a validation card sort, lots and lots of sketching, and final design with the promise of future A/B testing. Certainly this approach is only scratching the surface of what constitutes interaction design but, nonetheless, the resulting icons were an immediate hit. I came away with a win and a great reference.

A snapshot of my process for a recent 99Designs contest

It’s important for visual designers to approach projects with an interaction design mindset, especially when the product will be the whole of, or part of, a website, application or interactive piece.  Sometimes, though, designers either are afraid that these methods will take too much time, or they just don’t have the experience with a user-centered approach.  Yet there’s a growing need for designers with hybrid interaction & visual design skills, so we need to find a way to make the process more approachable to them.

99Designs is well poised to make this happen. As of this writing, there are more than 60,000 designers registered on the site, and, at any given time, there are nearly 200 web, UI or related interactive contests running. If 99Designs just tweaks their contest structure to support a process of discovery, sketching and validation, they could educate these designers and add lasting value to the work they produce.

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