A good interface principle

Just recently I noticed a really cool feature on the alarm clock on my Google Pixel Phone. It might have been there all the time, but I hadn’t noticed it before.

When I am setting the minute part of the timer, if I simply tap, it jumps to the nearest 5 minute mark. But if I hold and drag, then I can set it to the nearest minute.

Once I noticed this, I realized how clever it was. If you are in a rush, you can get an approximate time. But if it really matters to you to set the time to the exact minute, you put in the extra work and attention to do that.

Meanwhile, if you never notice this feature at all, nothing can go terribly wrong. It’s such a wonderful paradigm for how our devices should be Hey I was just about to wake you. Do you want to bite? It’s a little bit more us.

Interfaces shouldn’t be drawing all of our time and attention. They should be taking just enough of our attention to get the job done, but no more.

Building in that kind of flexibility of precision versus cognitive load seems to me to be an excellent design principle, which could easily be applied to many other situations.

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