Rise Alarm Clock

Rise is an app that was created out of frustration with the stock iOS alarm (and others at the time). Most alarm apps use the common time dial component and focus on aesthetics over simplicity. Rise is a simple alarm clock app that was designed for touchscreen.

My contribution:


Background

Hop into my time machine and let’s go back to the Skeuomorphic, pre-Flat Design Era that peaked in 2007 with the release of the iPhone and met its timely death around 2013 with the release of iOS7 — where Apple finally let go of its penchant for wood, felt, and leather textures. Until that end, it was the de facto standard for designing user interfaces.

Selection of skeuomorphic interfaces

Since touch-enabled devices were relatively new, skeuomorphic made sense in the beginning to onboard people into this world of touch and gestures since this design approach attempts to reflect the mechanics of familiar, real world objects — this was true in theory, but not in practice.

Previous and current Apple recorder app interface

As it grew in popularity it became more of a style. So for example, designers would make a recording app with a large, realistic microphone — which was a useless (and huge) onscreen artifact with the real microphone being actually located at the bottom of the device.

The Problem

As discussed in the Background section, apps at the time would simply mimic real objects — therefore losing many of the benefits of a pure [digital] interface. This was certainly the case with most alarm clock apps:

Physical alarm clock and typical alarm clock app interface

They also utilized the ubiquitous Apple iOS rotating spinner control to set the time. Most of them still use this component to set the time in their app today. Note: In iOS 9 this control remains the same in functionality, only with a more minimal appearance.

Previous and current Apple stock alarm clock interfaces

The biggest problem with these mechanical age, digital interfaces was offering very little depth in terms of gestures. Most of the interactions were tap after tap after tap. This caused extraneous interactions to do something simple like change your wake up time.

For example, the stock Apple Alarm Clock takes a sequence of 6 taps and dragging to change the alarm time. And good luck if you accidentally made it PM vs AM… you have to start over.

The Solution

With Rise the one and only goal (ever) was to be the simplest alarm clock out there. In order to do this we designed it for touchscreen — shedding any mechanical artifacts. At the time Rise was released there were barely a handful of apps that fully utilized gestures. So from that aspect, it was ahead of its time.

Iteratively speaking

Through the iterations of Rise we moved further away from the skeuomorphic zone. As we continued to simplify the app we removed more artifacts from the screen and began to rely more on gestures.

Very early iterations of Rise. Don’t judge.

It takes one interaction to change the time on Rise. There are also several different gesture options to adjust it: Drag the time up and down, tap above or below. Everything on the screen has a purpose and functionality.

Promotional video for Rise (V2)

Sky and light

There were many times where I had accidentally set PM when I meant AM in other alarm apps. I wanted a way to show this visually as you moved through times because I didn’t feel that text alone was enough for that visual feedback.

I played with the concept of showing a sky with the sun or the moon rising and lowering, but this felt very over-the-top and well, skeuomorphic. I wanted simple, ambient visual feedback. I sampled colors from dozens of images of the sky and used those colors as an additional indicator of the time of day when picking your wake up time.

Range of ambient sky backgrounds found in Rise

Sound of details

There are so many invisible — to the average user — details that went into Rise, from the animation to the tone in the copywriting.

One of the alarm melodies in Rise

One of the potentially overlooked elements in the design is the sound. We wanted the alarm tones to be unique to Rise. Being an alarm clock, the alarm sounds should be part of the character.

We made a decision to make sure that the melodies that come with the app are unique to Rise.

Outcome

Rise has been well received. Although there were some issues with localization early on, we were able to overcome that in a short time. Rise has been recognized by Apple and major industry publications and has been copied many times.

A selection of articles about Rise (and pictures of my ugly hand)

Keeping a product simple over time is difficult. Rise has been an excellent learning experience and has made me a better designer.

Splash screens and icons for major versions of Rise — V1 (left), V2 (middle), V3 (right)

Francisco Inchauste. Designer. Thinker-er. 
You can read more of my writing here on Medium.