Curiosity Cured

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? Thanks to all who commented on the watch question. I had no other motive for posing it, other than pure curiosity. For those interested, I’ve tallied up the results:

  • Analog(ue): 66
  • Digital: 23
  • Both: 14
  • Neither: 15

I was sitting through the 45 minutes of commercials and previews prior to viewing the excellent motion picture Elf, when I glanced at my watch (analog for those keeping score). I began wondering if others in the web world preferred digital or analog. Looks like analog is the winner here.

What does it mean? Absolutely nothing. Right?


  1. David says:

    Well, pretty much. The only example I can think of that analogue has over digital is that you can use it for a compass. :)

  2. Emperor Zelnox says:

    Hehe, I’m curious who uses Swatch time (aka Internet time)?

  3. Ken Schafer says:

    “What does it mean? Absolutely nothing. Right?”
    I’m not so sure there is nothing to learn from this. While unscientific, the fact that many people (in this straw poll and the real world) prefer analog to digital may have some meaning for web design.
    What might we infer from the continuing dominance of analog display?
    I’d hazard to guess that many people (myself included) prefer the fuzziness of analog time to the over-exactness of digital. I like to know that it is “quarter to” even when it is really “:43″, or “:47″. Another thought is the mechanical motion of sweeping hands may seem somehow more a part of the physical world than an electronic readout.
    Does this tell us something about presenting information online?

  4. Mike says:

    I forgot to post on the last entry, but I’ve always worn analog watches.
    There’s this big mind block for me with digital watches where I can’t grasp the importance of a specific time if I only see it represented with digits. Say I have class at 2pm, I look at my digital watch and it says “1:37:43pm”… so after a little subtraction (hey, gimme a break here), I’d realize I have a little over 20 minutes left. Ho hum.
    If I looked at my analog watch, my reaction would be more like “Oh man! I’ve only got like 20 minutes ’till class! I better get my butt outta bed!”
    Does anyone else have this syndrome?

  5. Gavin Laking says:

    In true Slashdot style, I think that the fact that analogue watches won through means that Microsoft’s business practices are morally and ethically unsound and Free Software is practically dead thanks to Novell buying SuSe and RedHat dropping support for their free distribution. But then, “What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. Right?”

  6. sergio says:

    I think Douglas Adams put it best in Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
    … Orbiting this at a distance of roughly nintey-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
    Analog rules!

  7. alex says:

    Put Ken and Mike’s comments together and I think you have both a reason many people still prefer analog *and* a lesson we can use in design.
    A digital watch tells you the time *now*, an analog watch shows you graphically the relationship of time.
    There are ways (as Mike mentions), the analog watch tells you more – it can tell you ‘Hey, 10 minutes until you’re late, move it buster!’
    There are certainly design principles at work here that we can learn from. One of these would be to look past surface requirements when doing design and try to identify how users think, what meaning they need to gain from the being infomation presented, and use that to present information in a suitable manner.
    Of course, some people just think analog looks classier. :)

  8. Jeff says:

    or maybe – just maybe – people simply like the look of analog better.

  9. Matt Haughey says:

    but…but…but…analog watches are so imprecise! “It’s about 11:20 or so” is semantically invalid!
    I would think people that know their way around a W3C validator would be the type that’d want to know the difference between 2:37 and 2:38. I own a digital watch, why doesn’t every other fan of standards?
    (note: tongue firmly in cheek, I think the results mean nothing)

  10. Anonymous says:

    An interesting off-topic conversation about analog vs. digital clocks surfaced in this blog post. The blogger talked about why Windows doesn’t show seconds in the Time in the “taskbar” and some commenters wondered why there wasn’t an option to have an analog watch. The blogger replied that “Problem is, some disturbingly large percentage of people can’t read an analog clock.”

  11. Raj says:

    Absolutely gorgeous design. Do you offer any free MT CSS styles? I am lost for words, but simplistic yet wonderful design.

  12. eric says:

    The funny thing about that blog post is that someone mentions the windows Date & Time dialogue box – which prominently features a large analog clock. If 40-60% can’t read it, and they couldn’t put it in the tray… why is it there?

  13. Jeff Croft says:

    I didn’t get in on the original thread, but for the record, I wear anlog.
    Why? Two reason, mainly (and they’ve both already been hit upon):
    1. Considerably more fashionable, IMHO. My design taste falls in the simple, modern, elegant realm — many more analog watches follow this trend as compared to digital, which are often overdone, bulky, and, at least to me, cheap-looking.
    2. As someone said, an analog clock is a graphical representation of the time, rather than an exact readout of the time. This appeals to my designer side. It’s the same reason I’d rather wear a T-Shit with the Apple logo on it than one which simply says, “Apple Computer, Inc” in the plainest typeface you can find. I’m interested in graphc design, and the analog clock is a great example of how graphics can be used to display a piece of information which may otherwise be very mundane.
    For the record, I didn’t think of this stuff before I bought my watch. I just know that I perfer analog and I took this opportunity to analyze WHY that might be. :)

  14. Dan says:

    Matt: Hilarious. You may be on to something here.
    Also, I too find it easier to tell how much time I have with an analog watch. For instance, 1:37 seems later than 1:40 to me. Weird, but true. It just sounds later for some reason.

  15. Sharif says:

    I agree with Mike. I’ve got my toolbar clocks, Outlook calendar, car clock and numerous digital phone displays to give me the exact time…but my analog gives me a better sense of time.
    A glance at my wrist doesn’t tell me I have 17 minutes until my meeting; it tells me I have enough time to finish what I’m working on, print a few briefs, grab a drink and a cigarette, and stroll on over to the conference room.

  16. There’s alot to learn from this:
    - That there is a strong, well mannered, humorous and intelligent user base for simplebits
    - more people don’t use watches than i thought (~10%)
    - the graphical communication method employed by analogue watches communicates a richer information set.
    - you can navigate by your watch (12 to the sun, half way between 12 and the hour hand is north – southern hemisphere!)
    and that’s just a start.

  17. buyot says:

    analog is ol’ skool.

  18. Chris McDougall says:

    If I had a choice, I would have opted for an analog *pocket watch*. There’s just something about pocket watches that invoke a sort of classy feel, though I hardly dress classy. Also, they’re generally made well, and in the tightest of situations they can be used as weapons. I just haven’t had the opportunity buy one for myself.
    Anyway I currently don’t wear my wristwatch since the battery ran out and my phone is somewhat ok at telling me the time. It’s a fine watch, with a yellow display over a black background. Very futuristic looking.
    But what good is a futuristic looking watch with a dead battery? I really wish I had one of those self winding watches…

  19. pixelkitty says:

    I thought I’d reply to Matt Haughy:
    ” would think people that know their way around a W3C validator would be the type that’d want to know the difference between 2:37 and 2:38. I own a digital watch, why doesn’t every other fan of standards?”
    heheh – nice point, but all the geeks I know (and myself) wear, and swear by, analog.
    Maybe its the aesthetic more than the accuracy?
    I can determine the time much more accurately and faster on an analog than a digital. for some reason, when viewing a digital watch or clock I have to *think* about how long til my appt or whatever – with an analog I just know.

  20. Egor Kloos says:

    When marketing surveys are carried out to define a specific target audience then things like clothing brands and ‘timewear’ are often recorded. The type of watch can be an indicator of a trend also it can indicate age, social and or financial status. When recorded information is measured and referenced (labled) marketeers can then compare this with existing (past) data to narrow down a specific target.
    Anyway, I think Analog(ue) is ol’skool and is totally the shizznit, or whatever. ;)

  21. Jaime says:

    I’ve got to go with Alex on this one.
    I think analog is preferred because it is like looking at timeline with the current time highlighted. It is easier to see the current time in relationship to the overall timeline.
    With digital it is harder to visualize the time in a relationship with other points along the timeline.

  22. Lars says:

    I prefer analogue.
    Also, I agree with Ken Schafer that this wasn’t a complete waste of time. It probably says something about our user interface preferences, not just for telling the time, although I haven’t seen a lot of anologue clocks on the web. Which in a way is a pity.
    However, I have the opposite “syndrome” of what Mike, Dan, Sharif, and Jaimie described: a digital watch gives me a much better sense of my timeline, or how much time I have left, especially when subtractions and additions need to be made. Besides, I do not understand how a digital watch could be perceived as giving a less accurate indication of the time by some.
    Another interesting conclusion we may draw from this poll is that geeks actually have some sort of aesthetic sense, although I would need more proof before I am convinced.
    Which brings me to DIGITAL CALCULATOR WATCHES. I’d really like to see a new poll on how many people use these. I have been wanting to get one for ages, as I’m certain they’ll come back into fashion at some point. The only question is when?
    Btw, Jeff: is your watch orange?

  23. bonj says:

    I think the spacial element of an analog is nice. I actually like the combo watches, but haven’t had a watch with both for some time. Fashion has never been much of a concern for me. I have a couple of analogs that need batteries, but the battery in my cheap digital is still cranking along, so it is the current watch in use. As far as teaching a child to read time an analog sure wins out when explaining a quarter or half past the hour.

  24. mark boyce says:

    45 mins of adverts! thats crazy, I think they are 10 or 15mins max here. I’ve got an Omega Seamaster Professional aka James Bond watch. Fantastic watch, cannot fault it.