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Given a simple time picker to be used on a mobile app where you set times for reminders and alarms what should you have the default time as when a user opens the time picker up. Take this as an example UI:

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Options:

12:00am - generally used as a default time for clocks. However, not many people set alarms/reminders for midnight so it seems like a wasted starting point. Likely not close to the current time, so if the user just wanted to set an alarm for 5 minutes away it could take a lot of scrolling.

Current Time - If someone want to set a reminder for a close event can just scroll up a few minutes/hours. However, it also has the implications of it is 12:35am and the user wants to set the clock to 2:00am they have to scroll the minute wheel up 25 ticks. Also possibly the inconsistency of starting at different times could be confunsing?

Which options (or other option) is the most user friendly and minimizes user interaction?

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Why not round up to the next full hour? You'd get all the benefits of defaulting to the current time with barely any of the hassle.

If the target time is within the hour, you'd only have to access the minute controls to reach your desired alarm time. I'd imagine that most people only set their alarms for events in the more-or-less immediate future (using either a physical or virtual calender for more long-term matters), so there's a good chance that other dates would take either less or a comparable amount of time and clicks to reach than they would if your app was defaulting to all-balls instead.

Could even take things a step further and add an option to your app's setting screen that lets people decide between a fixed and a relative date.

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I feel giving people choices to edit hours, minutes and am/pm is much better option to have in your alarm and for this i think showing current time will be great.

Also, there is much better approaches used in Android using Google material design for setting up an alarm, that can be approached too.

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I'd say the default is not as important as the selection process. The wheel selection looks good, but is a nuisance.

A better approach, the Windows Phone Alarms app.

The default time appears to be 7.00am, but changing it to any time requires the same at 7 presses:

select hours, type up to 2 digits, select minutes, type up to 2 digits, toggle AM/PM

Windows Phone Alarm default and change process.

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    I honestly feel android has an even better approach where the entire process is done in 3 intuitive clicks. They are shown the dial of a watch with only hours, after clicking on the hour, the dial shows minutes, and after clicking on minutes just click ok. – TDsouza Mar 8 '16 at 13:32
  • @TDsouza this must be new or manufacturer specific? Have a link/ example? – Austin French Mar 8 '16 at 15:51
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    It's part of the native alarm clock app for android. It's discussed here in some detail stackoverflow.com/questions/21315742/… – TDsouza Mar 9 '16 at 6:07
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I would imagine this is definitely all about context. The first idea you suggested (current time) would likely in the case of reminders be more useful than midnight - I would imagine there's more circumstances where the user's reminder is closer to the current time, than a 'random' time - which is essentially what midnight is.

Depending on the logic of the application, you could look at taking it one step further - e.g. if they've set that particular reminder before, the system could memorise that last time and use it as a default - similar to what an alarm app does (see Rise on iPhone).

I do agree with Austin's suggestion above in that the date-picker is not necessarily the most elegant UI, although it's worth bearing in mind if you're working with an iOS app, this is a standard built-in pattern that people will recognise.

I guess the easiest way to answer the question is to user test it, or try a split test between the two options, and optimise it from there.

Really this post can be summed up in one word - context.

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I liked Google's flow in this regard. It had a learning curve initially as such a UI was completely new for the users. Eventually, I find it is very helpful and visual.

Google goes step by step. It does not directly force a picker on the user. There is a certain amount of personalisation which offers quick ways for creating reminders.

1. Google opens a panel based on defaults set by the user.

Quick Options for reminders

The times populated by the system are my default parameters. The Later today 20:00 is one of the three default times of the day which I use. There is also location based reminder, which is out of scope for this question. This first step is helpful for quickly creating a reminder and move on.

2. The user can then go to manually selecting date and time.

On Web user can manually enter the exact time. In the app the clock is shown for exact time selection. At this stage Google offers the current time as pre-populated selection. This along with the clock face UI is very intuituve to quickly change the time to desired time.

The number of clicks (touches) are very limited. There is no long spinwheel travel for the user. User can pick a time in hours and intervals of five minutes. Optionally, user can select a minute between the five minute interval by precisely tapping the minute area.

3. (Optionally,) system prompts the user to save this time to save as default time for next time.

This is very helpful and in context.


This approach is aimed at function. It helps user to quickly set a reminder and does not bring the attention to default time when opening a picker. On a clockface user can quickly select what she wants without minding the default. In adition, this step is offered only pre-set values of times are not acceptable for the user.

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