Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Redesigning iOS Alarm and Timer Notifications

Matt Birchler:

What’s always confused me is that the timer makes “I’m done with this” the primary action, while the alarm makes “I need more time” the primary action. Why is this? Even after years with this UI, I still get it wrong sometimes because I have to do some thinking on “is this an alarm or a timer?” which isn’t terribly hard, but it’s harder than normal when you’re either tired and have a phone blaring annoying sounds at you.


No matter what the reason, I think there are a few main problems with the current UI, even if there is a logical reason to have their order flipped.

  1. The order of options is flipped between timers and alarms.
  2. The colors in the UI don’t seem to indicate anything. Orange is destructive? The opposite? 🤷‍♂️
  3. The buttons are smaller than they need to be.

And there’s a huge amount of empty space, yet no icons.


7 Comments RSS · Twitter

I think his proposed design is fantastic. Ship it!

Great proposed design. I wish Apple would hire designers who aren’t twenty-something. If they had anyone old enough to wear reading glasses they’d know how unreadable the alarm screen is, and this would’ve been fixed already.

Great, I’ll do the same for the watch. watchOS 8 has made it significantly worse in my opinion.

There are good ideas here: helpful icons and bigger tap targets are definitely usability improvements. The new button colors and sizes feel a little outlandish, but I’m sure that could be refined as stated.

But I have a feeling that reworking the timer buttons isn’t a slam-dunk improvement. It makes sense to me that the default action (stop timer) should remain topmost as it is currently, even if it isn’t consistent with stopping an alarm.

Moving the stop timer button to the bottom denies muscle memory, at least in how I process what happens when an alarm or timer goes off. Normally I don’t even look at the screen– forget about reading button labels. I just know that my default desire (stop timer or snooze alarm) is always in the center of the screen. I tap it without looking. In that way it’s already experientially consistent for me.

The reason "Stop" is the secondary action for alarms is that it’s the destructive choice. "Snooze" might make you late, but "Stop" will make you miss the appointment, if you fall asleep again. The button being tiny enforces that you’re awake enough to find it and hit it.

The other interesting thing is that the Stop button moves into the Snooze position for alarms where Snooze is disabled. So if you have some alarms with Snooze and some without, you can accidentally stop some that you thought you were just snoozing.

Kevin Schumacher

The problem with the mock-ups is while the buttons may be slightly too small now, I really don’t think you want tap targets which are so close together, especially for alarms. You’re much more likely to hit the wrong thing in that case.

I also agree that the way the buttons are arranged now makes sense from the perspective of being awake enough to make the correct decision for alarms.

I haven’t ever changed the Snooze option, but based on what you said, the Stop option should be in a consistent place.

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