The concept of display on-device is crucial to wearable design, both in terms of the physical design of the device and the experience it engenders.
The three core questions you should ask yourself to determine the right display treatment for your wearable are these:
- ? Should the wearable inform the wearer of something, and how often?
- ? What level of interaction is needed with the wearable (none, view information, browse information, add/edit information, other)? Does it need to be visual?
- ? Can the wearer use a smartphone (or other device) as an extension of the wearable, together providing an engaging experience for the user?
With these questions in mind, let’s review the range of options and their implications on the experience design.
Having no display means more industrial design flexibility in terms of the wearable size (specifically, it can be much smaller), the shape, thickness and overall structure. It’s also cheaper and technologically simpler to build. On the other hand, no display also means no visual interface, and thus less user interaction with the device. It doesn’t necessarily mean no interaction at all (as the wearable might still have physical buttons, a touch surface, sound, vibration, or voice interaction), but still, having no active visual communication with the wearable limits the scope and level of user interaction with it.
Keep in mind, though, that having no display doesn’t necessarily mean the wearable has no display channel at all. This is where the power of the ecosystem comes into play: the wearable device can send the data it collected to another connected device the user owns such as a smartphone or tablet, and the interaction takes place on that device, which offers a comfortable display.
The most common usage for wearables without display is data trackers, which measure physical and/or activity data. These wearables are often hidden — worn under clothes, or attached to them seamlessly. Here are a few examples: