Zones are the building blocks of urban analysis. Fields ranging from demographics to transport planning routinely use zones — spatially contiguous areal units that break-up continuous space into discrete chunks — as the foundation for diverse analysis techniques. Key methods such as origin-destination analysis and choropleth mapping rely on zones with appropriate sizes, shapes and coverage. However, existing zoning systems are sub-optimal in many urban analysis contexts, for three main reasons: 1) available administrative zoning systems are often based on somewhat arbitrary factors; 2) evidence-based zoning systems are often highly variable in size and shape, reducing their utility for inter-city comparison; and 3) official zoning systems are non-existent, not publicly available, or are too coarse, hindering urban analysis in many places, especially in low income nations. To tackle these three key issues we developed a flexible, open and scalable solution: the ClockBoard zoning system. ClockBoard consists of 12 segments divided by concentric rings of increasing distance, creating a consistent visual frame of reference for cities that is reminiscent of a clock and a dartboard. This paper outlines the design, potential uses and merits of the ClockBoard zoning system and discusses future avenues for research and development of new zoning systems based on the experience.