Writing for Apple Watch
Courtney Starr
Courtney Starr

Writing for Apple Watch

Courtney Starr, Senior Product Designer

Apple Watch is “the most personal device Apple has ever designed,” and it communicates with its wearers in more human ways than usual. The iOS Human Interface Guidelines state that “every word you display in an app is part of a conversation you have with users.” Let’s take a look at how this conversation has changed with Watch OS by observing a few Activity notifications.


MoveThe first time I received an Activity update I noticed how unconventional it was. The message read “You’re having a solid day. Keep it going into the evening. You’re 67% of the way to your Move goal.” A message like this on the iPhone might have simply stated “You have achieved 67% of your Move goal.” With the Apple Watch, it feels more like I’m having a natural conversation, rather than being spoken to.

Notable Terminology

  • You’re having a solid day” contains a contraction and uses the word “solid” in its colloquial rather than literal form.
  • “Keep it going into the evening” packs a lot into the word “it” by positing I’ve understood that “solid” meant successful and relates to my Move goal. Also, “into the evening” orients me and assumes a lot about how I’m conducting my day.
  • “You’re 67% of the way to your Move goal” displays how brevity and context are vital by using “of the way to” to describe what I’ve achieved so far and what I’m moving towards.


ExerciseThe next activity update that struck me read “You’ve passed your Exercise goal! Way to seize the morning.” On the iPhone, this message might have read “You have exceeded your Exercise goal.”

Notable Terminology

  • “You’ve passed your Exercise goal!” uses the word “passed” in a conceptual manner and the sentence ends in jubilee with an atypical exclamation point!
  • Way to seize the morning” is a phrase rather than a full sentence, and uses “seize” in a colloquial way. Lastly, it made me feel great for running before work.

I did it! Sorry, had to take a break to stand up there, which brings us to our next activity update.


StandThe Stand goal is surprisingly personal (and challenging) to reach throughout a typical work day. When you stand up during the day you receive an update that reads “You did it! You’ve earned another hour towards your Stand goal.”

Notable Terminology

  • You did it!” is an all together cheery message that feels more like Richard Simmons on your wrist than a piece of technology.
  • “You’ve earned another hour towards your Stand goal” is like one of those messages on a Dove chocolate wrapper…but I’m standing instead of eating chocolate.

Think Different Before You Speak

Are these notifications more motivational because of their personal tone? Can we drive engagement by speaking to our customers in more cordial ways? It’s difficult to provide definitive answers with such a new product, but what we can do is ask oursevles what it means for our users to be wearers.

In many cases user interface design is more about writing than it is drawing. Considering screen size, brevity of interactions, and connection to the user, we should be focusing on how to write for Apple Watch just as much as design for it.