Targeting the Apple Watch with Sitecore


Brandon Bruno


May 05, 2021


Targeting the Apple Watch with Sitecore

Modern websites are typically designed to be responsive to serve as many users as possible across many different screen sizes.

Most sites target a few bespoke sizes - mobile phones, tablets, and traditional laptop/desktop screens. This is really called "adaptive design" because content adapts to specific devices. True responsive design is "fluid" - content flows to fill any size display. Any I mean any: from a 1.5" smartwatch screen to 85" televisions.

Watches present a unique challenge - most users won't actually interact with a website on such a small screen, but at-a-glance information should be readily available and easy to consume with almost no interaction from the user.

Here's Sitecore Spark on the Apple Watch:

Spark on the Apple Watch - sample 1   Spark on the Apple Watch - sample 2   Spark on the Apple Watch - sample 3

Sitecore Spark features a fluid design that collapses pretty small - but not Apple Watch small. Apple's Watch browser - an implementation of a WebView using Safari - extracts what it thinks are the important parts of a webpage and displays them accordingly (this is why it's important to properly use semantic HTML tags).

While I can certainly read the occasional article on my Watch, I'd prefer not to, and the Sitecore Spark design reflects that on such a small screen.

Just for the record: there is no native Apple Watch browser (although third-party options do exist). Your website visitors are likely to come from an existing link (something shared via messaging, an email, etc.) rather than typing out a URL or doing a Google search.

Sitecore + Apple Watch

I had a thought - when building a Sitecore site, could I create a Device in Sitecore to target the Apple Watch and serve a highly stripped-down version of a site's content? For example, a restaurant site might only display location, contact, and a sample menu. When displaying content within the context of a watch, information should be brief: most users will likely only glance at their wrist for a few seconds before moving on.

Sitecore makes it trivial to identify devices using a browser user agent, so I started by grabbing the user agent from my Apple Watch browsing sessions.

Here's the user agent from the Apple Watch running Watch OS 7.4:

Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 14_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/605.1.15 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/14.0 Mobile/15E148 Safari/604.1

And here's the user agent from a regular Safari browser on iOS 14.5:

Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 14_5 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/605.1.15 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/14.1 Mobile/15E148 Safari/604.1

Notice anything? Me either. It turns out the Apple Watch identifies itself as a normal iPhone Safari browser. The lesson learned? Trying to use device detection in Sitecore is essentially useless.

So what's the best way to serve brief, highly-focused content to the Apple Watch? Using clean and simple content structure and semantic HTML tags (header, article, aside, etc.).

Do you have questions, comments, or corrections for this post? Find me on Twitter: @BrandonMBruno