Widgets… Wow or woe?

How much will the addition of Widgets impact users with iOS 14?

In the next release for iOS, iOS 14, Apple have announced one of the new features coming will be the addition of widgets on the home screen. If you’ve used an Android phone, chances are you’ll probably be aware of widgets already existing there. Another from the list of feature parity between Android and iOS. But, just because a piece of functionality will now exist on both platforms, does that make it useful/necessary for users to have on their phones?

From the words of Apple, the purpose of a widget is to “give you more information at a glance” which means information can be presented to users without them having to open the app to find it. This has been demonstrated to be useful by Apple with the Widgets they have already created, Calendar, Weather, Battery Information, News Headlines, Reminders etc. All of these provide passive information to the user, your next appointment, the current temperature, your next item on your to do list.

You can choose from 3 different sizes for the widgets currently, and you can almost place them anywhere on your screens. However, you are still limited by Apple’s decision of having items on the homescreen always flow from top left to bottom right.

I’ve spent some time having them on my phone through the Public Beta, and after a week of using them, I’ve found both pros and cons.

For me, the most useful widgets are the Calendar, Weather and Reminders widget. From the moment I unlock my iPhone, seeing the temperature and my next to do item are there, side by side, showing me the information. They’re designed well, in a card format, showing the relevant information in a concise way.
The Fitness widget also does a great job at visually communicating how much I’ve moved throughout the day, and the battery widget is incredibly useful for letting me know how much juice my earphones have before I need to put them on charge again.

However there are some widgets that feel a bit half baked, but it is a beta and there’s always room for improvement. The Siri Shortcuts widget is more like a control centre block with large buttons for the actions. A lot of space isn’t being utilised and there could be more information presented about what happens when I tap one and some sort of feedback alert to let the user know the task has been completed.
The notes widget is handy only if seeing your most recent note at a glance would be useful to you. It could benefit by having a + icon on it to allow the user quick access to adding a new note.

The files widget, like with the notes one, again only allows you to access most recent files. It would be useful if Apple could allow functionality that let users specify what type of files they would want quick access to on the widget.

There are a lot of potential use cases for 3rd party apps to utilise this feature, but they will have to solve the challenge of finding out the right way to prove its value to users.

Last year, Spotify removed their widget from Android last August because they thought that users weren’t using it. They received a huge outcry from their users and later restored the widget for Android users. So clearly there is a demand for widgets from users, and having quick access to play controls is important to users, something that could be taken into account for the Apple Music widget.

Let’s hope the app developers can find a way to utilise this new addition to the OS for their users.

UI Designer based in London.