The alarm clock is a standard feature of mobile phones, and an incredibly popular one. More people use the alarm clock of their phone daily than send text messages or browse the mobile Internet; by this measure it's the most used feature of a phone, bar making calls. And yet of all the functions in your phone, the alarm clock is one of the most staid - unaffected by advances in technology, connectivity or our behaviour.

Samsung Galaxy S2 Alarm clockI've been looking at the alarm clock that shipped with my Samsung Galaxy S2. It feels over-complicated to an intimidating degree: separate options for Alarm type and Alarm tone, a selection of possible snooze settings, something called "Smart Alarm" which sits there on-screen bereft of explanation, and the ability to give your alarm a name. 9 input fields, just to say "wake me up"? This can be improved.

I've been thinking for a while that there's some interesting work to be done here, so I'm using a piece of coursework for my MSc to have a look at alarm clocks, from an HCI perspective. To kick this off I'm doing some research into how real people (that's you) use their alarm clocks, and how they manage their sleep-time. So I'd be awfully grateful if you could take a few minutes (literally) to fill out this survey on the subject.

This will be a design project (rather than a research or evaluation piece): I'm going to produce at least a couple of iterations of design for an improved piece of alarm clock software. Now, I've always admired what I've read of Pixar and their process of doing daily design critiques:

"At Pixar, daily animation work is shown in an incomplete state to the whole crew. This process helps people get over any embarrassment about sharing unfinished work—so they become even more creative. It enables creative leads to communicate important points to the entire crew at once"

What I'm working on now is a solo project which won't naturally give me many options to get feedback, and there's no need for me to communicate aspects of the design to a wider group; but I'm still interested in understanding what it feels like to work in that Pixar fashion, and how it could improve the end product.

So I'm going to post regular updates of unfinished work here and invite comment; I think my readership is small enough that I know most of you, and I think you'll have some interesting opinions. And if you've read this far, please do pop over to that survey - it'll give the work I'm doing some grounding in reality.

Update: 3:25pm on Wednesday 14th December 2011, I'm marking the survey as no longer accepting responses now, after 24 hours. Thank you *very* much to every single one of the 187 people who kindly gave up a few minutes to help with this.