How-to test a wearable app?

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How-to test wearable app’s

With every presentations I give about testing wearable apps people look at me as if it is an idea of the future, not on their horizon jet. Also many organizations are still working on the transition form traditional websites to responsive web and mobile apps.

But if I look around there are already many experiments with this new category of devices. In this blog I explain how-to get started with testing wearable apps. It starts with looking at some examples of experiments and then in three steps (Ready, Set, Go) I take you to my wearable test approach and finish with my most important lesson in the conclusion: wearable app testing and testing wearables in more general starts with testing accessibility.

Examples of wearables

Here are some examples of experiments that are now running:

  • A tattoo to serve as an interface to screen like your TV. See MIT’s Next Breakthrough Interface? Temporary Tattoos)
  • The Google Glass experiments from the last three years. See Google Glass strikes back)
  • iBeacons in the Dutch retailer “De Bijenkorf”. When you enter the shop you are welcomed, see your loyality points and promotions that may interesset you. See iBeacons at the “De Bijenkorf”.
  • On the CES beurs in Las Vegas, Alcatel Onetouch introduces Pixi 4 range, kids watch based on the GPS location a electric fence is monitored. If the child leaves this area there is notification sent and the parents can get in contact with the child. See Alcatel Onetouch Pixi 4
  • A bio-processor of Samsung to measure the muscle mass, hart rate, hart ritme, skin temperature and stress level. See Samsung bio-processor.

Here is also a cool example Run-N-Read of Weartrons form the Dragon Innovation startup platform. This wearable device make it possible to tracks your head movements and then moves the text on the screen in real time to always be in sync with your eyes.

The purpose of wearable technology is to create constant, convenient, seamless, portable, and mostly hands-free access to electronics and computers, see (

Ready …

I started testing with a first generation smartwatch Moto 360 from Motorola and a first generation Apple watch, because Im a runner so I can use it everyday to gain more experience. Beside this personal motivation I also think the smartwatch will be the digital hub for all the wearables on my body. As I have learned a wearables are sensors on my body to collect data, which are sent via an API to the cloud and controlled in a mobile app. With the smartwatch I can have a realtime feedback while Im running.

Ready, Set …

Questions that I had were:  “What are wearables?”, “What is the difference between mobile apps and wearable apps”  and most important “How can I test a wearable?”

Wearables testing is about validating if and how (simple) the wearable is extending the users digital experience, give more capabilities to control its environment and can monitor its vital state. This gives a starting point on what the value is for the end-user.

If you see the criteria form Apple and Google about how to develop a wearable app then it come down to the following list:

  • Understandable in one view (glanceable)
  • Use non-visual communication and big gestures
  • Filter what to show and don’t be a shoulder tapper
  • Public versus private data (personal communication and privacy)
  • Navigate and gesture without a friction
  • Handling noise and movement
  • Default is offline usage
  • Continuity between all my devices

But I found many “lists” that point out important factors for wearable apps. See for example:

Ready, Set, Go … or not

When using my Moto 360 and Apple Watch I experienced that most apps where to complex to use in 3 seconds, require to much attention and where not helping me during my current activity. For example “please stand up, while I’m driving (monitoring)”, “Four steps to add a task in Trello but it’s not asking me for witch project (extending digital experience)”, “ (Turn down volume of the music player but that can only be done in the general music app  (control environment)“.

When using the smartwatches it irritated me that I needed to give to much attention to the app. To align the wearable app with the required attention level is the hardest thing to do. Because it is depending on the many factors form the end-user like:

  • The skills needed to execute the task
  • The difficulty of the task
  • The number of task to execute
  • The anxiety of the user
  • The arousal of the user

The action the I need to do need to be aligned with already existing automated task. Then it is a routine and I can only multi-task of one task is a routine task, See Theo Compernolle. As Theo says: “People work beter if they can process information in blocks instead of multiple tasks at the same time. In other words people are more productive if they have focus”.

An example of this routine and attention task is: “please don’t talk to the bus driver”. The bus driver can’t multi-task giving attention to the road and talking. Both tasks are not routine. Driving is a routine, but watching the traffic is not. Using a wearable should be a routine like driving or watching the time. If it is not a routine then it is requesting to much attention.

Attention level

Depending on the type of use case the developed features and the way the feature are presentated change. The table below is from table of Tomi Ahonen, see

Tomi Ahonen

So depending on the differt use cases people use a different device and the amount of time spent execute a task is different.

Different use cases

Depending on the type of wearable, to type of task the test criteria change. As a tester I like to use a model to structure all the wishes and needs, validate them and then give priority when I execute me tests. This model I call a the wearable test approach.

Wearable test approach

In my mobile app testing I use the ISLICEDUPFUN heuristic model of Johnatan Kohl. With this model I can perform a risk analysis and select the the relevant perspectives. A perspective like Network conditions test the mobile app with WiFi, mobile carriers, movement, buildings, impact of switching between different network types, speed, online/offline. See for more background information about this heuristic

With type of use case, the size of the action, the attention level and if it is a routine or not I looked at the mobile and the big difference is: “Motion”. Like I’m riding on a bick and receive a phone call. How do I pick up? How do I answer? Im driving in a car and get the activity update to focus on my standing goal; how do I dismiss this without my hands? Extending the digital experience, monitoring vital state and control the environment changes the form of interaction, when to interact, how long to interact.

Conclusion: Wearable and accessibility

The user interaction starts with being able to interact with the wearable app. This is accessibility is usually seen as a property for people with disabilities, but when I was giving voice input and didn’t know how to switch between control the app and give input I felt disabled, when screen is so small and with my big fingers keep touching wrong I felt disabled, when I was running and want to change a podcast Im constant double tapping, swiping between screens.

Using a wearable starts with testing on accessibility. Wearables are new sensors and to be able to use them, people need to be able, without a friction, to access them. See and Mobile Accessibility Handbook  for more information about accessibility.

After this the testing can focus on perspectives like Ergonomic, Usability and User scenario’s.

Wearable references

Wearable examples references

Testing in perspectives references

Accessibility references

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