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Lessons from a hotel alarm clock

August 22, 2007 | 5 Comments

During my talk at UX Week last week, I picked on the alarm clock in my hotel room.

Alarm clock

Technology found in hotel rooms is notoriously poorly designed. Why? Too cheap to buy the good stuff? For example, here is where you set the alarm type, on the side of the radio. You can choose either BUZ or RAD or OFF.

Alarm clock, alarm settings

Now, really. What is the point of shortening Buzz to Buz, or Radio to Rad? Obviously, there is plenty of space for the extra Z I and O. All you’re doing is reducing readability. What’s the gain?

Another example: Notice the big fat button. Repeat Alarm. My assumption is that the big fat button is the Snooze button. And that’s true here too, at least functionally. But instead, they decided to call it Repeat Alarm. Why?

Alarm Clock, repeat alarm

Look up to the left corner. Notice the Slumber button, which is usually called Sleep. That’s why Snooze is called Repeat Alarm. If you have both Slumber and Snooze buttons, what’s the difference? So by being clever and adding a Slumber button, they sacrificed the clear meaning of the biggest button on the device, Snooze.

But now, here’s something pretty interesting.

Alarm clock, weatherband

Weatherband on or off. Notice the obvious finger divot so you can find it easier by feel alone. At first I was skeptical of this button. When would you ever need that fast and immediate access to the weather? But then I remembered, I’m from the West Coast. We never get weather changes so rapid that we need the weather report NOW. But there on the East Coast (I was in DC), hurricanes can move rather quickly. Here, it made a lot of sense.

Is this a button that is regionally-based? Do they make different models of this alarm clock, and sell them only in bad weather areas?

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