In all the advances in usability why do alarm clocks still wake us up on Saturday? Why not only Monday to Friday instead of being set every night?

Do we have to rely on our mobile phone if we want an smart alarm (ok there is this one alarm clock for $60 http://www.americaninnovative.com/products/neverlate.php).

Thanks for the great answers I was curious to try out UX. If I can merge this to my account I'll accept an answer. I guess I hadn't considered how complex it gets despite being a seemingly simple feature.

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    Smart alarms are available. However, the ubiquitous alarm_time + on/off UI is the simplest. Allowing people to set the day complicates the interaction significantly. Not everyone works Monday-Friday.
    – dbkk
    Sep 23, 2011 at 8:50
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    You have an upvote from me, because somewhere in this question is a good UX question - about how we can improve functionality on standard and established interfaces, without introducing excessive complexity into the interface. Sep 23, 2011 at 10:53
  • @dbkk Good answer. You should make it an answer. :-) And add that no one likes to be woken up early on holidays. Sep 23, 2011 at 11:07
  • Anyone who's interested in this problem will enjoy TechCrunch's interview with Tony Fadell on his company's new Learning Thermostat. Oct 25, 2011 at 18:13

9 Answers 9


Because the simple system works. You set it when you go to bed, and if you don't want to be woken up the next day, just don't set it.

More complicated ones with more features are available if you like, but the common ones do the job in the simplest most intuitive way. Good UX design.

  • 1
    Agreed. When you set the alarm, the last thing you need is the feeling of "I wonder if I set it right?". That won't help your sleep, and when you finally fall to sleep the alarm clock is set wrong :) Sep 23, 2011 at 9:49
  • @Henrik - I see this as a need for a really good UI with clear and definitive feedback, so that you KNOW that it is set correctly. I don't like the approach which says "lets not provide complex functionality, because it is difficult" - difficult is a challenge, not an excuse. Sep 23, 2011 at 11:07
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    @SchroedingersCat: But is that additional functionality really necessary? Is there more to check to make sure that I don't have it wrong? When is tomorrow if I go to sleep at 00h30? What day is it today (for some people)? Very advanced alarm clocks exist already that do what is being suggested in the question anyway. They don't all come with this functionality because most people don't want/need it.
    – JohnGB
    Sep 23, 2011 at 11:45
  • It is a difficult question - do people not want it because trying to set it up is difficult. If it is easy, then maybe more people would use it. Look at video recorders - people tried to use them but found them too complex. And yet digital TV and TiVo-like boxes have done extremely well, because when it is easy to do, people will do it. Sep 23, 2011 at 12:06
  • I wouldn't call the design of most alarm clocks 'good UX design' - I found most of them counterintuitive and frustrating.
    – Inca
    Sep 23, 2011 at 17:14

While I agree that the simple design does work, there is a place, I think, for more advances in the development of alarm clocks, as long as the complexity of setting them is not hugely increased.

I have a Digital Radio alarm clock, and I woudl really like to be able to set different stations for waking me up in the morning and other times - like at night to go to sleep with. And I have 2 alarms on it, but I would like to be able to set a range of alarms with types - so that I can just say that on Monday I need and Early Call, it will wake me up at 6.30, whereas the other days of the week I might want a Late Call for 8:30.

The technical challanges involved in this are not huge - it is easy enough to do - but the real challenge is to provide a user interface that is very clear and very easy to use. That is more of a challenge.

  • A problem with this is the variable levels of complexity, combined with the phone issue. At least with a smartphone you can chose rather precisely how complex you want your alarm's interface. Having to buy an expensive alarm clock with a predefined feature set makes the interface a much larger issue.
    – Ben Brocka
    Sep 23, 2011 at 11:49
  • Yes I agree with this. I think the solution to this will be the rise in phone alarms with advanced features for those who want them, and the options and choices made available through other existing devices. But the issues about providing both simple devices and complex devices, with simple and straightforward interfaces, is important. Sep 23, 2011 at 12:11

My alarm clock does this, and it's brillant!

I don't buy the "because simple is best" argument in this case, for the reason that the alarm clock I own is simple to use, never wakes me up at the weekend and I never forget to set it on weekdays either—it's already done it for me. A great enhancement.

I can't believe more alarm clocks don't have this feature.


I can't see a problem with "relying" on our mobile phones. The new ones has really nice alarm settings and the phone itself can be turned off, but the alarm will anyway work on the morning.

My guess is that an alarm clock that costs at minimum $60 (because it requires a screen and some input controllers) wouldn't sell that much especially since everyone has got a mobile phone nowadays...

  • 2
    I personally see a trend of specialized devices like alarm clocks fading away. Computers in commonplace things like refrigerators can make some sense, but once everyone can be assumed to have a feature phone or smartphone, watches and alarms are fairly unhelpful.
    – Ben Brocka
    Sep 23, 2011 at 11:48
  • But when you wakeup in the middle of the night, it's easier to see the time on a clock than a phone.
    – JeffO
    Sep 26, 2011 at 13:11

For what it's worth... my alarm clock does this.

I don't know, maybe my alarm clock has a complicated interface, but that never seemed to bother me. It has two alarms and the ability to do everyday or just weekdays. When setting the clock numbers can go forwards and backwards. Hours and Minutes are set together so after 5:59 comes 6:00. I think it cost me $20, 4 years ago.

The only drawback that it has now is that my iPhone won't plug into it.

  • I have one like this, too. Two alarms, though I can do every day, every weekday, or Sat/Sun. The alarms also use different alarm patterns, so you can tell which is which.
    – Shauna
    Sep 23, 2011 at 18:13

Even if it is complicated to setup, isn't it worth it to do just once? It won't be perfect (holidays that only occur 10/365 days a year). I'm all for saving me from having to hit the alarm 104 days a year unecessarily. It has to be simple enough, but still should accomplish the task at hand.

People may not have been proficient with VCR is scheduling programs, but they managed to setup that 'one' favorite show that aired the same time.

Most alarms are probably built off the same chips anyway. Soon this will end up being standard because it will be cheaper to make one slightly more complex chip in volume than two versions.

I have two dogs that wake me at 6:00 AM each morning because they are oblivious to weekends.


I think its a fair question: my heating controller allows me to set different 'weekend' and 'week' running times.

Maybe when we finally get 'smart houses' one interface will allow you to set the alarm clock + heating controls + home security settings all at the same time.


Although I think that the 5/7 alarm setting might be useful for some users, I have never used that feature so I'm my personal experience it can be overwhelming. So I would say keep it simple and leave it as an advanced option


Given the number of bank holiday and annual leave etc when you don’t wish to get upat “working time”, just having a weekday and weekend setting is not enough, but does make the alarm clock more complex.

My alarm clock has a nice solution, in that it has two alarm times, and it is very easy to enable/disable each of these – simple and provides most of the benefits of the complex solution.

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