…And then, Apple copies you.

muneeb bokhari
Jul 1, 2016 · 3 min read

Last year, my company, Digiplastic Industries, launched an iOS app called Level (it’s free!). Level is an app that assists users in building one habit at a time. The central functionality is a pair of alerts that the user receives: a reminder and a confirmation. The idea is that by affirming and acting on a single task on a daily basis, users build and reinforce new habits into their lives.

This past Monday, we learned that Apple’s iOS 10 incorporates a central interface from Level in the Clock app. Take a look:

Depending on the time of day, I feel either incredibly violated — a breach of trust, if you will — or honored that Apple is taking cues from Digiplastic’s apps.

One thing is for sure, the news has had me reflecting on the development of Level and the process led us to the user experience you see above. I’ve shared some of that process and effort below.

Building a Better Alarm-Setting Function

One of the more challenging UX decisions we had to make was how a user can quickly and efficiently enter the time for the reminder and confirmation alerts. Our first try was pretty mundane: user enters the time for the reminder, taps next, then enters the time for the confirmation.

Pretty boring. We thought we’d make it a bit more interesting by introducing a bit of analog-skeumorphism. The theory went that introducing a pseudo analog method of entering time would be novel to the user and make the process feel less burdensome. We came up with a screen that looks similar to the below:

Level’s first iteration on setting the reminder alert

Looks nice! The problem is that we now had two screens that looked substantially the same. Testing indicated that users were getting confused about the screens and their own position in the app.

What’s more, we realized that the two alarms were inextricably tied and, therefore, should be visually presented as such.

One clock face, two alarms

After several experimentations, we ultimately decided to maintain a circular clock face and incorporate functionality to set the two alarms on the same face:

Level’s current interface for setting the reminder and confirmation times

Initially, we wanted a very simplified screen, so we experimented with removing the labels above the circle and using icons to indicate the reminder and confirmation, respectively. Further user testing made it clear that leaving out the labels would be a bad idea: users were taking too long to figure out what the icons meant and understanding the scale of the circle.

3…2…1…Launch

We launched Level on August 29, 2015. We got some love on Product Hunt and we saw some awesome usage. To date, over 40,000 goals have been set with a large number of users tracking their goals .

If we say so ourselves, that’s a pretty good response from our users…we’re pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished with Level and the type of positive impact that Level has had on our community.

…And then, Apple.

As I hinted to above, I haven’t fully digested the implications of iOS 10’s clock app. I’m incredibly proud of the work that Digiplastic did while building Level and the risks we took in devoting resources and time to releasing a novel interface.

Does it rankle that Apple took our interface? Of course. I’d be lying if I said anything else. At the same time, I’ve been around long enough to understand that this kind of borrowing happens all too frequently.

Whatever we end up doing next, I’m thankful that these events have given me an opportunity to stroll down memory lane on a Friday and share above.

muneeb bokhari

Written by

Technologist, inventor, and attorney. Building mobile and web experiences that connect brands and consumers as founder of @_digiplastic.