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Case Study – NatWest for Apple Watch

NatWest for Apple Watch


This is a case study for the native app NatWest for Apple Watch.

Client: RBS/NatWest
Agency: SapientNitro
My role: Associate Creative Director


Back in March 2015 the RBS native apps team at SapientNitro was briefed to design an app for Apple Watch for NatWest. Whilst this was a very exciting proposition, it presented us with some issues:

  • The *actual* watch was not to be released until April 24th
  • No other UK retail bank had done a watch app, let alone a decent wearable offering
  • Customers would have legitimate concerns over privacy
  • We needed to do a ton of research and make some assumptions


‘Wearable devices are a whole new thing’

‘As the iPod did for the portable music market, and the iPhone did for the smartphone market, Apple Watch will define the wearables market.’


‘Everything is in beta’

At that point in time, we really didn’t know where this was going. Outside of Apple Pay, fitness/health trackers and other groups, there were no real stand out apps.


read everything


Everything I design comes from intelligent research of what is possible from a technical platform perspective, and factoring in the proposed user stories and the minimum viable product we started to put together a solution.


Apple Watch Sketch CheatsheetEnlarge


We started by going through every piece of designer and developer documentation.

Apple Watch Human Interface Guidelines

Apple Developer – Watchkit

Then reading insights from the first lucky people who got hold of one.



Some practical considerations to take on board:


Don’t just port

Don’t just try to port your iPhone app. Pick your best bits. Some things just don’t work on a small screen with no keypad. The Watch is all about passive interaction. Choose the best moments from the experience and make them available for users to fold into their day

Watch is REALLY slow

Allow for the latency between the watch and the phone, and the phone and the API, it can be as much as 10 seconds


Notifications are everything. Without them you will struggle to interact with the user on a passive level.


Apple Watch.011



What is the minimum viable product that we can deliver to market? Most banks will show a balance and maybe transactions, how can we do MVP+

Buildable Solution

What is technically possible given the launch date timeframe, and the needs of the user and the business?

Risk versus reward

How do we hit the sweet spot between providing convenience but respecting privacy and perceived security?



Apple Watch.014

  • Design super minimal
  • Users wont read loads of text.
  • Branding is all about colour.
  • Circles are familiar, and feel right
  • Embrace siri, force touch and tactics


Apple Watch.015


Key Insights


Apple Watch.016


Watch app experience should be reductive, rely on user familiarity. Strip the UI down to the bare minimum.


Apple Watch.017


If desktop computers can be used for hours at a time, and smartphones for minutes, the watch is being measured in seconds. Welcome to the 10 second rule


Apple is suggesting developers design their applications to be used for no longer than 10 seconds at a time.


Apple Watch.018



Glances are nowhere near as important/useful as we thought. Given the limitations of the glance screen, we spent far too much time worrying about it


People had no idea what they meant, and how they related to their money





With no actual Apple Watch, we needed to get some feedback as to what the customers might want from a wearable. Time for some in-branch Guerrilla testing. We showed fake screens on a Samsung Gear Watch and asked a series of questions.




Most customers had no idea what the Apple Watch was, or what they wanted.

We focused on the glance, and how people felt about seeing a small visualisation of their money, and looked at simple questions such as ‘how many transactions would you expect to see’ and ‘how do you feel about seeing your available balance at a glance.

Issues with the in-branch testing:

Most people are in the branch because they don’t bank on the mobile/desktop, so wont be conversant with the digital products and services




The app was launched on July 2015 to great reviews. I did the art direction on a promo video


whats next


Whats Next?

Unpack the iPhone app and go for Version 2.0

NatWest for Apple Watch

Related External Links

NatWest iOS app (App Store)

NatWest for Apple Watch (YouTube)

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