Keys to Gesture UI Design for Wearables

Designers can find plenty of guides on gesture for mobile UIs. When it comes to wearables, it becomes slightly more difficult to find references for wearable specific gesture UIs.


There are two primary reasons for this: the infancy of the industry and the lack of design communities in developing a wearables UI standard. Wearable gestures do not only interact on a two dimensional screen, but also have to deal with our 3D environment. Point, click, swipe, rotate, drag, and pinch no longer satisfy the gestures needed in wearables. 

Google UI design for mobile applicationsGoogle Material Design


To educate users into understanding gestures of certain wearables, we may look at illustrations like workout tutorials and ikea manuals. The lessons we can learn from these tutorials and manuals are the simplicity of understanding the actions while translating 3D movements to a 2D display. Often these manuals rely on a two-step or more illustration that describes the timeline of the actions. Due to the limiting factor of a 2D display, to create an intuitive design requires a lot of thought and testing from a decent amount of users.


Workout exercise tutorials UIBen Wiseman


Due to the digital nature of wearable technologies, we can also rely on animations. In Kiwi’s web demo, we have created animations that describe the gestures users needed to perform. Animation saves screen space while creating a more descriptive, intuitive, and easy example of what the user is supposed to do.


Kiwi Demo gesture recognition

Kiwi Demo #1


This is only the beginning of gesture UI design and there is plenty to improve upon. It is often the designer’s job to transform high tech gadgets into easy-to-use devices in our daily lives. As the industry grows, we hope to have more designers come onboard to develop and expand our understanding of the way humans interact with wearables.


Toronto |

Building the future of connected devices and AI as we know it