source: Mircea Iancu

Can you ...

A client asked us to give new ideas for smartwatches and of course we were more than willing to help. We used less than a day sketching ideas and in the end they were happy with the result. It is almost impossible however to create groundbreaking designs without understanding the target group, in this case older-aged consumers, better. We initially recommended a collaborative design project which they declined but I think it is still worthwhile sharing it here.

State of Art (2019)

We were fortunate that a few days before we got this request we attended one of the mobile electronics tradeshows here in Hong Kong so we had a good understanding on the currently available smartwatches in the market, the features they promote, the (still) bulky designs, if they are used stand-alone or in combination with a smartphone, etc.


Even though we were only asked to make sketches, we still did some basic study about the foreseen target group. In our case we wanted to know what the 'older-aged user' is exactly: what does he/she do in his or her daily life? What are his or her daily struggles or activities, what does he or she wear, use, walk, think about, etc. This helps us to define the design to a large extent. However, the persona, even though it is better than working with no prior input is still limited in what it tells you about your foreseen target group.


We have to be careful to design a smartwatch that older-aged people appreciate and not to design a smartwatch that we think older-aged people need. What they want is not the same as what we want for them and what we think they want. We suggested to conduct a design research using different techniques (mock-ups, interviews, etc) to understand what 'older-aged'-people are looking for in smartwatches before designing the actual product. Around fifteen to twenty participants is statistically already enough for this but more is preferred of course.


The research we foresee will consist of an interview, questionnaire and practical models (mock-ups) of non-working smartwatches with different designs. We will present these mock-ups together with the questionnaires during interviews with subjects so they can wear, hold and use it and comment on it: which design do they prefer, how easy can they put the watch on their wrist, can they use the touch buttons or prefer a touchscreen, etc. Next to that we want to test the user interface of existing smartwatches to see how easy participants can navigate through the menu, control the touchscreen, physical buttons, how they perceive the audio/visual feedback, font size, etc. We will interview them after the test to get further feedback related to the test.

We will not test the health-related functionality itself as subjects might feel shame in case of abnormal indication (we will ask them in the questionnaire about health related features though). The research will result in a research report with all the findings and of course guidelines for designing the product itself.

Questions and Design

This collaborative design approach would give answers to various design/UI aspects as you can see below and will be used as input for designing a smartwatch truly made for and by older-aged consumers.

• How do they currently live, which devices do they use currently?
• Do they use a smartwatch already, if so, why, if not, why not?
• What is preferred, an Apple band with pins and holes, a magnetic band, a stretch band or a traditional buckle-band? A loss of touch/senses might mean traditional buckle belt is too frustrating for this age group.
• What is preferred, a touch screen or a screen with physical buttons on the side (loss of touch, cognitive decline).
• What functionality do they like to see in the smartwatch (easy contact with friends and family, watch function, reminders, SOS-button, etc). What else and what not?
• Do they themselves want to know about their health or should it be more a read-out for doctors?
• How should they be alerted: light, sound and/or vibration?