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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Alarm Clock Design Rant

I went shopping for an alarm clock for my mother today. Why is it that the largest button is for a function that is never used? I'm referring to the Snooze button. Does anyone use that? Instead of stopping the alarm temporarily and have it ring again in 5 minutes, I want it to stop for today and ring again tomorrow. Isn't that what most people need?

Instead, we have to find a tiny switch and move it to the off position, then back to the on position. And all alarm clocks are like that. Ugh.


  • This is intentional.
    Most people are very comfortable waking up for a moment, banging at whatever is making noise, and going back to sleep.

    If they hit a snooze button, they get a few minutes, and then are again forced to wake up.
    If the big juicy easy target was an off button, the alarm would go off, and the just-one-more-minute nap will become sleep again.

    Hunting for the tiny button makes sure that you're coherent enough to operate it. It's not difficult, but requires enough effort to make it likely that you will no longer "automatically" go back to sleep without paying attention. It forces you to wake up more.

    By Anonymous Yaron, at 11/22/2009 10:18 AM  

  • Point taken. But it seems sub-optimal to make the most frequently used action difficult.

    Maybe they should make the snooze button big and the stop button medium (rather than tiny).

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 11/22/2009 1:34 PM  

  • Medium is still easy to hit without really waking up first.

    I agree that it's sub-optimal if you're one of the people who really wake up when they wake up.
    But for most people it's optimal, since the problem is shutting up the alarm clock and going to sleep again, after which people decide that the alarm clock isn't good enough since it doesn't force them to wake up...

    I did encounter a clock once that had a selector that modified the snooze button between snooze and off. It's far from common, though.

    I also once had a pair that were too "unsophisticated" for a snooze function. The large button at the top was a physical in/out switch, so pushing it in turned the alarm off (you had to push again, to release the button, to activate it the next night). This would probably fit what you want. Can't recall the maker name, but I expect that it will be more common with older (probably also non-digital) designs.

    By Anonymous Yaron, at 11/23/2009 6:28 AM  

  • You must be like me Jon. When I'm awake, I'm awake. There is no snooze for me and so that's a function I never use, too.

    By Blogger Thomas David Baker, at 12/06/2009 1:35 PM  

  • Tom - Yeah! What alarm clock do you use?

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 12/07/2009 7:58 PM  

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