watch home layout wish

With the Apple Watch Home screen, Apple introduced a new layout and design that is a departure from what we have all been accustomed to with iPhone and iPad. Instead of favoring rows and columns of square-ish icons, Apple had to rethink the user interface and introduced us to an infinite and honeycomb-like fluid grid of apps devoid of pages, folders, or dock.

One could argue this design paradigm modernizes the Home screen as we know it, but beyond the new and refreshing look, I’ve had a hard time getting used to it and actually find it useful. As a matter of fact, I don’t find it useful at all. It is absolutely gorgeous to look at, but it is also a terrible mess to use. Organizing apps, looking for apps, and being able to accurately tap on their icons is something that I have had a difficult time with.

Organization

On its website, Apple says that “the arrangement of apps is simple and orderly,” but I beg to differ.

In essence, moving apps around on Apple Watch is actually not complicated. Simply tap, hold, and drag the app where you want it to be, directly from the device or from the Watch app on iPhone. The problem occurs if you’re actually trying to keep your apps organized in some sort of intelligent layout, rather than just leave icons wherever they end up being. Moving one app somewhere may automatically move another one where you don’t necessarily want it to be. And because of its honeycomb layout, apps that are moved don’t always snap where you expect them to.

Some users have showed creativity in the layout of their Home screens, and I’m happy that Apple has given us the limited freedom of not being tied to the iOS grid style of rows and columns, but as an organization standpoint, I personally believe it’s a mess.

Navigation

According to Apple, “turning the Digital Crown allows you to navigate nimbly and precisely, without obstructing your view.” That is completely true, except that the most important screen where I don’t want to obstruct my view is the Home screen, where I am unable to use the Digital Crown for navigation, as it is used to open whatever app you managed to place right in the center.

My  watch app layout
My layout is optimized for vertical scrolling

In itself, this is not a big deal, as scrolling up, down, left and right with my finger is actually much easier and more natural than using the Digital Crown, but to me, the honeycomb layout makes it harder to really find what I’m looking for.

Tap targets

Maybe the most limiting consequence of this Home screen design is that not all app icons are the same size on the Home screen. You have the center icon, which is the larger one, and by extension the easiest to successfully tap. Then you have the six icons that are directly around the center icon in a different size. Finally, you have several other sizes for the satellite icons.

I completely understand the reasoning behind the various sizes. This is what makes the Home screen flow like it does in the visually appealing way it uses, but as someone who likes things consistent, and simple, this just doesn’t work for me, and sometimes makes it challenging to accurately tap on the icon I intend to, especially when on the move.

Now to open an app, I have to scroll, make sure I bring the icon of the app I want to launch as close to the center as possible to make it as big as possible, then tap on the icon. As a comparison, on iOS, I see a grid of icons of similar in size. The tap target is the same size, no matter what. It is consistent, and it looks cleaner to my taste.

As a workaround, there is the option to Reduce Motion in the Accessibility settings of the watch, which, on top of preventing various animations, resizes all the Home screen icon to a fixed size. This is merely a workaround to my first world problem, though.

A simpler layout?

Again, I really like the way the Home screen looks on Apple Watch. What I’m not a fan of is how usable it is. Call me crazy, but I wish Apple gave us the option of going back the good old iOS grid style we’re all used to. It could be an accessibility feature too, as I’m pretty sure it would make it easier for someone with vision or motor disabilities to navigate the Home screen.

New watch Home screen layout

After a few minutes in Pixelmator, I came up with what, to me, would be a more helpful layout. Twelve icons, all of the same size, easily arrangeable, and organized in a clean and consistent manner. The added bonus is that you would be able to use the Digital Crown to scroll up and down. It doesn’t look as slick as what Apple came up with, but it is arguably more efficient from a usability standpoint.

I don’t have much hope for this to happen though, unless we are able to jailbreak Apple Watch. I’m confident the graphic and interface designers at Apple have spent countless hours figuring out what the best layout for the Home screen would be, and they concluded that what we have now was indeed the best solution. Besides the modern look and feel, I just fail to understand the real benefits of the current Home screen layout.

Am I the only one?

  • Pokeh321

    Your concept looks so much better in my opinion. Maybe apple will give an option for this.

    • Fanboy 

      Now that I see it in rows, it would make 100 times more sense for it to be this way. Oh well, for now everyone can just find ways to organize it better. This is what I do, allows me to see my most critical apps only and scrolling horizontally reveals the rest of my apps

      • Cool layout. It makes lots of sense

      • raulortiz318

        I’ll be stealing that idea. Seb this was a great post!

      • Fanboy 

        Go for it! Make sure to only use 2 rows of icons on each side so that when you scroll it’s really clean and there’s not icons all over the screen

      • raulortiz318

        Will do. Damn, now all I need is a Watch…

      • Fanboy 

        Will be worth the wait! 🙂

    • Antzboogie

      To be honest it looks messy.

  • judge2020

    this would greatly improve my want for the watch

    • mike

      I hope you know you will use the apps on the watch a lot the first month but then after that it will be useless… Its like jailbreaking your phone for the first time. You want download all the cool stuff but after a while you don’t care about it.

  • dudewassup

    I like your concept. And maybe it could be an infinite vertical scroll to show the rest of the apps, I think it would tie in really well with the digital crown.

  • John Kerins

    I’m with you Seb, don’t have the watch in Ireland yet but I never liked the watch layouts on the iPhone that were popular when I had my jailbreak a few months ago , the 3×4 circular icon layout is what I’d like when I do get the watch but we will have to hope Apple see the light or the Jailbreak teams find a way !!

  • I think that with such limited “real estate” on the Apple Watch, we should be able to choose which apps we want to take up that space. I would love to get rid of several stock apps, hopefully there will be a jailbreak! Love the article Sébastien!

  • Bybymax

    Nice post. Heard your point of view in the podcast and I join u in the fact that they should consider people with vision disorder. May Apple hear your voice!

  • Andres

    Best article of the week!

  • Tommy Gumbs

    I agree with you. I have only played with the watch several times, but i quickly found the design horrible to use.

  • Fanboy 

    Nope, this was the first rearrangement I made. I didn’t have intentions of doing any “layout” until I started realizing the stock way was too messy and slowed me down so I figured this way out

    • John

      So, 20 days after you wrote this I have finally received my watch… Care to guess what the first thing I did was?

      Yup. Turn it on 😛

      Guess the second? Play around with the layout. I definitely do not like the honeycomb. I think I prefer Sebastien’s layout since it seems more natural to scroll top to bottom.

      • Fanboy 

        haha nice, how are you liking it so far!

        Scrolling up and down to me wasnt as natural because when scrolling vertically my finger is in the way, versus the horizontal layout my finger doesnt block the apps 🙂

      • John

        True but if you scroll with the digital crown, you don’t need to worry about where your finger is because it’s not blocking the screen…..maybe? I dunno. We’ll see.

        How do I like it? I like it, I’m just not 100% sure where it’s fitting into my life though. I’ve dumped ALL my apps on to the watch and I’ve already removed a few but also, most of them are pretty shit (not sure if it’s just desperate developers riding the popularity train or they just haven’t played with an Apple Watch yet to understand how their app works–like when the iPad first came out, no one really knew how it worked other then ‘it’s a bigger iphone’)

        I am just looking forward to later today when Apple will refresh their site and show off more Watch apps.

  • JohannASSburg

    Can you choose which stock apps go onto the home screen? or do you just have to put them on the ends or hide them somewhere if you don’t want them?

    • You cannot hide stock apps, unfortunately

      • JohannASSburg

        oh well I hope the jailbreak is out by the time I get mine so I can do that.

  • YTMT

    You guys are crazy – circular interface for the home icons (which uses software design to mimick a circular watch) is intuitive and offers the biggest icon density possible. I want to argue that even the smaller icons in the background are distinguishable, and I think many people actually will feel that way.

    • gittlopctbi

      I don’t think the issue was being “distinguishable,” but accessibility. Being able to tap on them.

      • Lagax

        I don’t know what people have to say about this interface, but seriously: even the smallest icons are easy to tap to me if you just tap on the display region where only they are and nothing else is displayed (maybe even on the bezel), what is wrong with you guys?

      • gittlopctbi

        When you say things like “what is wrong with you guys,” you assume that all users are like you in terms of physical body, mentality, and coordination. It could be a simple thing such as the way your fingers are built that make it easier for you than the average person. It’s definitely OK to say “I am experiencing absolutely no problems with it” but not so much to say “what’s wrong with you guys.” There’s nothing “wrong” with them. They just don’t like it. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      • Lagax

        Yeah. That was Irony either way, sorry if you misunderstood that… I don’t know what’s wrong with me, because it seems like everybody hates it and I’m the only one that just loves it. And I have really, really big fingers…

      • gittlopctbi

        That’s cool. I’m glad it’s working out for you.

  • longterm

    Having used my stainless-steel Milanese for the last 6 days, I agree; I’d like an organized grid, with larger icons, better than what we have now.

    Time will tell, but you can bet that the UI will evolve just as the device itself does.

  • This is what’s missing. You tap it and it shows an alphabetical list of all apps.

  • socrates

    I don’t always use the home screen, (due to all my activity being glance-accessible), but when I do, it’s in the shape of the Apple logo.

  • neez

    I think the Apple Watch current interface will make much more sense in future Watch iterations with rounded screens. This layout used now maybe probably be like that to combine the best of both worlds: squarish and rounded.

    • Lagax

      The AppleWatch will never be round, just like the iPhone will not, just get over it

  • Ishtar Ullevig

    You can turn off having small icons by turning on “reduced motion” in the app on the phone

    • As mentioned in the post 🙂

    • John

      I assume this means the icons will stay the same size?

  • CanadaBC

    I don’t understand the hype. When the android wear watches came out very little was said. And all that was, was negative. This watch comes out, and its no better, and its getting so much attention. The only reason this overpriced piece of jewelry is getting so many good reviews is because its an Apple product.

    • John

      I’ll happily bite.
      Because, like ALL Apple products, it works where Android products fail.

      When you’re part of the Apple Eco-system, everything talks to each other, everything works the way it’s supposed to because it’s easy and everything plays nice with each other. That’s the big difference.

      • CanadaBC

        Nope. Not at all. I have owned nothing but android phones and my wife uses Apple. She has no more usability with her phone than I do. As a matter of fact she likes how my phones are more customizable and quicker with better cameras than any of hers have been. I can connect my phone via WiFi to my PC seamlessly. Transfer files and music even from iTunes. No added benefit sorry. To get total connectivity across platforms with apple you also need to buy their overpriced tablets and PCs. I have an android tablet. It sees and connects with my phone. With the swipe of a finger I can send pics and video to my TV. No I don’t see your point.

      • Lagax

        Just because you are unsatisfied with your purchases of Android devices doesn’t mean you have to compensate and tell other people they bought bad products. If you are an Apple hater don’t go on this website.

      • CanadaBC

        I never once said I was unhappy with Android. I was just responding to the comment and stated that Apple is not the only product that is fully cross platform compatible. Before you tell me what I am saying is wrong please try reading it properly.

      • Lagax

        I got what you said, I think you just didn’t get what I was implying… ^^

      • John

        The fact you started your reply with “Nope. Not at all.” shows you are unopen to changing your views.

        I answered your question and you raise a completely different topic, trolls gotta troll so until you’re willing to play at the adults table: Good day, sir.

      • CanadaBC

        Sorry I am not trolling. That was pertaining to the comment that the iPhone was a superior phone because of its ability to be cross platform compatible seamlessly. I admit it is but that isn’t a good argument because so is android. It just boils down to personal preference. I just don’t think the android wear watch is a inferior device compared to the Apple watch and don’t understand why it would get bad reviews. When the Apple watch comes out it gets great reviews. They both do the same thing. That is all.

      • John

        1. I don’t believe that the iPhoen cross-platforms well at all. If you have a Windows computer, for example, iTunes for Windows is a mess and therefore I wouldn’t recommend the iPhone because of how heavily it relies on iTunes to do….well, anything.

        2. Absolutely agree it’s personal preference and I know people who have gone to Android from iOS and loved it, I know people who have gone from Android to iOS and don’t want to look back.

        3. I admit I’m not 100% familiar with Android Wear (I’m not up to date with features and functionality) but certainly appreciate the information that devices like Galaxy Gear stores…as for hype, I think it’s the same as my earlier point: Apple Watch is designed for one device, the Apple iPhone so Apple knows how it works and how to make it function fantastically. Android Wear needs to play nice with everything and everyone.

  • Diogo

    I don’t think it makes sense being a row. Image if you have hundreds of apps. You gonna need spotlight to find the apps.

    • John

      You do. It’s called Siri.

      “Hey Siri, open Tweetbot”

      • Diogo

        Yeah but you won’t call Siri all the time

      • John

        I don’t have my watch yet so I can’t comment however a good mate who owns one has told me that’s the best way to find an app. I think it would be difficult to set up Spotlight on this device because of the small retail space and the inability to type easily on it.

      • Diogo

        I agree that soptlight would not be the best option thats why I think that this design is not that bad

  • Gary le

    I thin we need to start a petition right Sebastian? Lol

  • UnlimApps Inc.

    If a watch JB comes out this will be the first thing I make.

  • Peter Shen

    Apple got the dock right in Apple watch os 3, but the home screen remains. Probably because it’s seldom useful that it doesn’t bother anyone anymore.
    But I just disabled motion (or… Enable Reduce Motion in Accessibility) so the home screen icons are the same size. You can’t mess with the layout but at least you’re navigating a 2D plane, not a spherical surface (where the corner icons shrink away)