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Making Mailchimp for Apple Watch

photograph of Apple Watch

Last month, when Apple unveiled their new watch to the world, my Mailchimp mobile teammates and I immediately knew we wanted to build something for it. But we wanted to make it truly useful, not just an app for the sake of having one. New tech toys are fun, but we knew what we made needed utility and purpose. At first, we struggled to find a place in our mobile ecosystem for a wearable app. We set the idea aside, but it kept looming as we worked on other projects. And then, at long last, our path made itself clear.

Watch the widgets

A couple months ago, we released v3.4 of Mailchimp’s iOS app that included our new Today widgets. The widgets appear right on your dashboard when you log in, and help you track your latest campaign stats or keep tabs on your list growth at a glance. At some point, it became obvious that it’d be even cooler if it was your wrist you were glancing at. So we got to work.

Schemas and sketches

Based on what we already knew about the Apple Watch, we understood there would be 2 navigation schemas available on its new platform. So we started planning our app there, with long discussions about the merit of each (and plenty of sketching, as you can see). We quickly fell in love with the idea of swiping through paged campaigns, but ultimately felt that limiting each campaign to a single watch face wasn’t feasible. In the end, we landed on a 3-view paged layout for each report and list. To navigate to a new item, you’ll simply bring up the force touch menu and select where you want to go.

Connect the apps

Our next challenge was figuring out how to link the watch app and its iPhone counterpart. At first, we wanted something active, perhaps an action that launched you straight into the iOS app. But we quickly came to understand why Apple suggests using Handoff instead.

As a user, you focus on one device at a time. Handoff takes advantage of this by providing a passive, seamless way to move your work from one device to another. So if you’re looking at your Mailchimp account on your Apple Watch and you want to see more data on your campaign or jump into a list, you can simply grab your phone or tablet and swipe up on the small Mailchimp icon in the bottom-left corner of the lock screen.

Never noticed that icon before? You’re not alone. Before building an app that implemented Handoff, I certainly hadn’t. Now I see it all the time. (An added bonus of us implementing this continuity is Mailchimp users can now hand off between the iPhone and iPad, too—no Apple Watch needed!)

Uncharted waters

Here’s the craziest part about building Mailchimp for Apple Watch: none of us on the mobile team have actually used the device yet. Now that it’s finally out, we can’t wait to take it for a spin. I’m sure we’ll spend the next few months tweaking and perfecting the app, so if you use it and have feedback, we’d love to hear from you.

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