Product Design

WWDC 2016 Keynote Recap: 3 Takeaways from a UX Designer

“Our quest is to change the world for the better.” Tim Cook started WWDC 2016’s Keynote acknowledging the Orlando tragedy. The room of 5,000 stood up as we joined Cook in a moment of silence. Technology can better humanity, but that also starts with us as humans, so it was heartening to see everyone respect that silence.

“Our quest is to change the world for the better.” - Tim Cook


Empathy is an indisputably important characteristic to have as a UX Designer. It’s the ability to place yourself in someone else’s position and understand their experience. At the keynote, we saw empathy at work in technology through the activity improvements Apple is making to watchOS. Apple’s Director of Fitness and Health Technologies, Jay Blahnik, pointed to a large amount of research conducted on behalf of users in wheelchairs. Recognizing Apple Watch is important to these users, Apple has made the motion of steering a wheelchair an indicator of movement in Apple Watch. Additionally, the encouraging message “time to roll” now displays on the watch interface for users who are in wheelchairs.


You are not your audience, and it’s something to always be mindful of when you’re designing. We saw an example of this in the keynote through Swift Playgrounds , a new app for iPad designed to teach children how to code in Swift. It’s clear the target audience are students just starting out and kids because of the app’s graphical and playful interface, and because the projects in the app seem to be more focused on gaming and little animations.


Simplicity in design can create a powerful experience. As UX designers, we should ask ourselves how we can create experiences that are uncomplicated for users. How can we design them an easy and accessible experience?

Some of the improvements users will see in the fall are continuity across devices (syncing data and settings through the cloud, automatic download, and universal clipboard), auto-unlock (automatically unlocks your laptops and desktop if it’s in proximity to your iOS devices and Watch), and raise to wake (wake your iPhone’s lock screen when it’s lifted). Additionally, users will see enhancements in the Phone app (transcribing of voicemail and call-spam detection) and rich features for iMessage (hand-scribble on iMessage and Watch, “emojifiable” words, and bubble effects). In other great news, Apple Pay will be available for the web and Siri made its premiere on the Mac.

What stood out visually was the redesign of the Apple Music and Apple News apps. The UI is simpler, cleaner, and provides us with a great way to use typography to enhance visuals and exhibit hierarchy of content.

These new features in iOS 10, along with some others I’m not covering here, will allow us to use technology in ways that bring more simplicity to users’ lives.

Apple Design Awards

The day ended with the Apple Design Awards, showcasing all of the incredible design talent that’s out there. Here are three apps that stood out to me the most because of visual design, inclusive design, innovation, and technology.

  • Linum , by Joaquin Vila (who won one of the student awards), is a puzzle-type game where your goal is to land nodes on the landing points and complete the moves in the fewest moves possible. The UI is super clean and demonstrates great use of white space and typography. It’s beautiful work by a student.
  • Inks , by State of Play Games , is the new generation of pinball with an artistic flare. What I love about this are how each pinball board is carefully custom-designed, there’s clear thought behind the color blend and watercolors in this app, and the attention to audio design is also impressive. It’s rich, unique, takes pinball to a new level, and displays visuals reminiscent of print work into a digital interface beautifully.
  • djay Pro , by algoriddim GmbH , provides a complete toolkit for performing DJs and integrates with your media library as well as Spotify. What’s also exceptional about this iPad app is the pristine sound quality, a solid set of features (high-definition waveforms and four decks), and VoiceOver accessibility for all supported languages. This app was designed with accessibility in mind and is a great example of inclusive design.

WWDC kickoff was great and made even greater by the fact that it’s my first time at the conference. Let today = newBeginnings. Tweet at me or direct message me on  Twitter if you’d like to meet for coffee to chat about design, UX, or even yoga/mindfulness. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Apple’s mindfulness-based health app, Breathe , and what you think about Apple’s new App Store Review Guidelines in partnership with Madefire. I look forward to seeing you at WWDC!

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