What's The Best Way To Arrange Your Apple Watch Apps? Redditor Frendargolargo Used Fitts' Law To Do It The Scientific Way

Did you just get a shiny new Apple Watch? If yes, then you're probably deep in the throes of trying to figure out the best way to arrange your Apple Watch apps. But hey, good news: Someone did the hard stuff for you. Redditor frendolargo used a principle called Fitts' law to organize his or her own Apple Watch — and followed up the experiment by posting the results in the Apple Watch subreddit. How thoughtful! So how does it work? Let's take a look.

Before we begin, though, let me make one very important note: I am mostly a scientific and mathematical layperson. One of the quirks of being a person who puts words on the Internet for a living, you see, is that we need to be able to absorb a lot of information about a topic we may not have hitherto been familiar with in a very brief amount of time. That's also one of the coolest parts of the job — we get to learn neat new things ever day! — but all of this is to say: I am not an expert on Fitts' law, so my understanding of it is likely imperfect. I also don't intend to get an Apple Watch, because I cannot for the life of me figure out why I would need one.

HOWEVER. All of this is still pretty neat-o. Here's the lowdown:

What the Heck Is Fitts' Law?

First things first, right? According to Usability First's glossary, which had the easiest-to-understand explanation of Fitts' law I could find, it's “a model to account for the time it takes to point at something, based on the size and distance of the target object.”As an equation, it looks like this:

T = k log2(D/S + 0.5)

With k representing 100 milliseconds, T being the time it takes to move the hand to a target, D being the distance between the hand and the target, and S being the size of the target.

As a principle, Fitts' law means that it's easier to click on bigger targets that are closer to where you already are. In tech design, it's often used as a guideline for optimizing things like the sizes of icons, buttons, and cursors: The bigger the icon or button, and the closer it is to where your cursor already is, the faster you'll be able to get to it — which, ultimately, can result in saving the user a lot of time over the long run.

Where Does The Apple Watch Fit In?

As frendolargo put it when explaining Fitts' law in action, “You wouldn't, for example, put your most used apps on the second page of the iPhone home screen. You'd put it near the bottom of the front page, closest to your thumb.” The Apple Watch, however, presents a whole new set of problems, mostly due to the screens miniscule size. Frendolargo wondered if there was a way to use Fitts' law to optimize the layout of your Apple Watch screen — and wouldn't you know it, there is, and using it could save you a ton of time. The example s/he used is as follows:

In just the simplest terms possible, say that your most used apps get 10 interactions a day…. Let's say you could shave off one second from each interaction by making the tap target bigger and the distance to reach the target shorter. Ten seconds per day per target is about an hour per year.

All those seconds add up. Frendolargo determined that the best way to shorten interaction time on the Apple Watch screen is to give yourself a margin for error — literally. As Frendolargo put it, arranging the icons such that there's more empty space around them “can effectively make the target bigger.”

So What About This Fancy Layout, Then?

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There it is. Apps are arranged in groups of six, with each group being a circle with empty space inside it. The empty space makes the target “bigger” by lowering the likelihood that you'll hit an icon you didn't mean to hit; meanwhile, the circles give you the shortest distance to travel between app icons.

As for how you decide which apps to group together? That will depend on which ones you use most frequently. For frendolargo, those are the six in the middle grouped around the clock. For the curious, here's what his/her Apple Watch display looks like when s/he launches the app screen:

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Neat, right? The TL;DR provided at the end of the post reads as follows:

Form circles of apps, leaving an empty space in the middle of every six. This will give you the least amount of accidental taps. Group your apps by ideas and keep your most frequently used apps closest to the center.

But Why Bother With An Apple Watch At All?

Why I probably won't get one is the standard answer: You can already do it all on your iPhone (including raising a Tamagotchi, which is what I am currently doing. FOR SCIENCE. And yes, you'll be hearing about that little experiment eventually, too). But if you're into Fitts' law, congratulations! The princple in and of itself is reason enough. Explained frendolargo:

The reason I got the Apple Watch is Fitts' law. Every 10 seconds you're saving per day, per app, is an hour saved a year. On the iPhone, realistically, each interaction is much more than that. It's five to 10 seconds per interaction per app at a minimum.

Pulling it out of your pocket or walking from the kitchen to the living room, all of these are tiny moments on their own. But the target is iPhone-sized and the distance is living room-sized, and those tiny moments add up. The watch saves you seconds per app per day, but closer to 20 hours or more per year. Every year.

So, when someone asks you why you bought the Apple Watch, think of Fitts' law and tell them you value your… time.

Fair enough. I still probably won't get one, but that's an argument I can respect.

Head on over to Reddit to read frendolargo's full explanation.

Images: Pandawhale; Giphy (2); Imgur (2)