Apple Watch is built with accessibility in mind, so everyone can use their device in the way that suits them best – and your Apple Watch app can take advantage of all these features to create a seamless and inclusive experience.
When designing your Apple Watch app, there are a few considerations to keep in mind to make it accessible to everyone.
Responsive, responsible assessments
One of the best ways to get a sense of the work you need to do is to explore the accessibility and display options of Apple Watch, which allow people to customize or expand their interface and interactions with Apple Watch.
When designing your app, Dynamic Type and VoiceOver are two important settings worth exploring: Dynamic Type allows people to resize their text on Apple Watch, while VoiceOver helps people navigate without viewing the screen. You can enable or adjust this at any time in the Settings app or in your iPhone’s Watch app.
We recommend that you test your Watch app with these options turned on to ensure that your app is fully accessible. You may also consider testing your interface with bold text, reducing transparency and reducing movement.
For each test you run, ask yourself a few questions: how does your interface change? Are there aspects of your design that are no longer well represented? Take detailed notes and screenshots – these can help you go back and address potential issues in both your designs and your app’s Xcode project.
Scale up, scale down
Compared to other Apple products, the small size of an Apple Watch display means much less space for presenting text. As such, it may be tempting to consider specifying fixed smaller font sizes so that more text can be displayed on the screen at a time.
Nevertheless, it is important to use legible font sizes and support Dynamic Type. Displaying more text on the screen, while useful in principle, will not help anyone if it is too small to read. Instead, let the text scale naturally and use the Apple Watch swipe or turn the Digital Crown to read longer text.
The fastest way to support Dynamic Type and text scaling is to use built-in text styles, which set the type with Apple Watch’s system font: SF Compact. Specially designed for optimal readability in small sizes, this font offers nine built-in styles in various sizes and weights to make the text in your app as readable as possible.
In general, all text in your app should be properly scaled when people adjust their text size. Fixed text sizes should only be used for information that is clearly legible at the default setting. For example, the Podcasts app uses built-in text styles to display the podcast title in a consistently large format and allows to scale the smaller text elements.
If you plan to use a custom font in your app, you need to take a few extra steps to make sure it works with dynamic type, including adding the font to your project and configuring text styles.
Learn more about adding custom fonts>
Learn more about scaling fonts with Dynamic Type>
Support VoiceOver with accessibility labels
VoiceOver is a gesture-based screen reader that tells you exactly what is happening on your Apple Watch and helps you navigate to it without having to see the screen. You can add support for VoiceOver in your app with accessibility labels, which help people use the feature to understand how your interface is built.
Fun fact: If you want to quickly test VoiceOver in your app, you can use Siri. Just enable Siri and ask for “Enable VoiceOver”.
When someone looks at your interface on Apple Watch, your app can rely on common visual paradigms like button shapes and lists to communicate information and actions. For VoiceOver, think about how you could translate that experience to someone who hears your app’s interface: Start by stating a clear reading order of your interface elements and make sure to label your interface elements with short and clear descriptions.
There is one more step to consider when implementing VoiceOver: Your audience may want to hear your interface in a different language. VoiceOver supports over 35 languages, and you can make sure your app is ready to use in all of these languages by locating your text strings so that all accessibility labels and hints are read in the correct language.
Learn more about creating a great VoiceOver experience in your app>
Learn more about adding accessibility labels to your app>
Learn more about locating your text strings>
Watch and learn
Apple Watch is our most personal device, and it’s important to give people flexibility to experience their apps the way that suits them best. For everything you create, it’s worth taking the time to test your app and make any adjustments. Whether you’re adding scalable text or adding a better VoiceOver experience, these changes will have a big impact on people who need or want accessibility features on Apple Watch, and are also likely to help you create better overall designs for anyone who likes enjoy your app.
Read more about accessibility design>
See “How to Write Good Accessibility Labels”>
Learn more about designing type for your apps>
Download SF Compact>
Apple Watch Design Templates> Download
Read more about supporting VoiceOver in your app>