For the latest entry in our DDIR2 series, we spoke to Andrew Roe, founder of Roebotx, about his upstart watch face business and his problem-solving approach to design.
How did you first get into developing watch faces?
I started my career working as an automation and robotics programmer for a local investment firm. From there, I realized if I just focused on solving simple or complicated problems through software, I would be able to make a go at it on my own. That led to the launch of my small business, making applications which enable people to have more productive lives. I had the idea for my first watch face while sitting in traffic on my way to go snowboarding. I was thinking, “Boy, if my watch had traffic updates built into it, I would have known to turn left instead of going straight.” From there, I started researching the parts to make it happen.
Tell us about your top performing watch face. Why do you think this one has been such a success?
GPS Traffic Map Watch Face is my top downloaded app. I built off Google Maps – it’s a watch face that implements traffic data. The watch will center on your location when the screen becomes active and drops a breadcrumb, so you can see the path you traveled. I think it’s successful because it serves a purpose. It is a tool. It’s great, too, for those who like to bike and hike.
What are the biggest technical/design hurdles when designing a watch face?
The biggest challenge is getting the best user experience on such a small form factor. There is not a lot of room for interaction and you can’t display a large amount of information, so the watch face needs to be simple, to the point and perform a function.
Too much information will kill the UX and with too little information, the app becomes useless. It’s about finding the right balance between the two and that takes the most time to solve. You must try it out and use it. I’ve found that some of my best ideas on paper really ruin the UX and I need to change it.
What were the biggest kinks you had to iron out when you first started your watch face business?
Getting those around me to see my vision. My wife saw my watch face business as an excuse for me to play on my new toy, which in all honesty, it kind of was.
From where do you draw your inspiration, and how do you define success?
I was my first customer. For all three apps I have made, I went to the app store with an expectation and when I saw a gap in the marketplace, I decided to make it. Success for me is seeing people realize they can have great productive lives when they trust technology to free up their day, which leads to spending more time with their friends and family doing what they love, and less time sitting in traffic.
Do you have any advice for a designer starting out and looking to create a successful watch face business?
Find a problem to solve, because surely someone else is facing the same dilemma you are and could use your solution. Draw a picture to work towards, then try it out and see if it works. And then change it 50 times, fail fast and move on.
You attended the Samsung Developer Conference last year. What was the biggest takeaway for you?
It was nice to see a big picture view of where technology is going. I spent a lot of time in college contemplating an autonomous house, so seeing the pieces that are already available was exciting. Networking and meeting other colleagues in the industry was invaluable. Talking to some of them really got me thinking about what else I could do, and how I could code differently. And, getting to meet Stan Lee really sealed the deal on how much I love what I do.
How has Samsung helped grow your business?
My business didn’t grow until I started working with Samsung. At the Samsung Developer Conference, the badge button was recommended to me, so I integrated it into the free version of my watch face. Since then, the Samsung team has been available – and patient – in answering any questions I had on a one-on-one basis. They see the marketplace on a greater scale than I do, and can give me perspective and recommendations on how to improve functionality.
Thanks to Andrew for sharing his thoughts with us. Make sure to like us on Facebook so you don’t miss any of the great interviews we’ll be posting in the coming weeks. We’re excited to see how these designers are doing it right!