A Scoring Method for Amber Case's Calm Technology Checklist

Atualizado: 17 de Out de 2019

Last year, Amber Case published a basis for a Calm Technology Checklist that not only "designers can actually reference in their daily work," but also consumers can use when purchasing services and products. In this text, I am going to explore the main concepts of calm technology and present a scoring method for Amber Case's CTC.

Calm Technology can be understood as a set of design principles that can be employed for products and services. They were created so the interaction between the user and the technology could make the best use of the user's periphery rather than consistently at the center of attention. The term "Calm Technology" was first published in the article "Designing Calm Technology," written by Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown in 1995.

Before explaining the scoring method for the CTC, I will briefly describe the core principles of Calm Technology using an alarm clock as an example.

I. Technology should require the smallest possible amount of attention

Imagine an alarm clock that would require you every single day to set the time you want to wake up the next morning. After one week, you probably would want to ditch it. Never forget that your attention is indivisible and that your time is unrecoverable.

II. Technology should inform and create calm

An excellent example would be an alarm clock without any display to indicate if the alarm is set to on or off. The device would not be informing you if the desired outcome - of the buzzer activating, resulting in you waking up - will be accomplished or not.

III. Technology should make use of the periphery

You don't really need a screen message to inform if the alarm is on or off. The same information can be conveyed by - for example - using a small luminescence light under the device that could change its color to blue when the buzzer is set to on and could turn to red when the alarm is set to off.

IV. Technology should amplify the best of technology and the best of humanity

Philips has an alarm clock that uses a light bulb to simulate sunrise, gently waking you up in the morning. This is a very nice feature because it makes use of the natural characteristics of human beings to make them wake up better.

V. Technology can communicate but does not need to speak.

Most people would consider waking up to a talking alarm to be too creepy to consider as an option. Also, a device would need to offer many languages. That is why designers need to be mindful when deciding when to builtin speech into devices in opposition to visual, audio (sound) and tactile modes of communication.

VI. Technology should work even if it fails.

This principle can seem hard to understand at first. It is easier to get the idea if you keep in mind that technology, being created by human creativity, is far from perfect. Consequently, it is a smart idea to embed batteries into the design of an alarm clock just in case there is a power outage, for example. All intelligent devices should have resilience embedded.

VII. The right amount of technology is the minimum needed to solve the problem.

Do you really need an alarm clock that accesses the Internet before triggering the buzzer to make sure what time is it? Would that add value to the product or just unnecessary complexity?

VIII. Technology should respect social norms.

A sensible alarm buzzer needs to wake you up, not the entire neighborhood. Of course, you can choose to buy dozens of loud bells out there, but there is simply no point on being disrespectful to others and unkind to yourself.

Now that you got the basic idea of what Calm Technology stands up for, we can go on to explore how to use the CTC to enhance our power of decision regarding which tech solution is best for us.

Looking inside the CTC, we can identify three main sections: Viability, Attention, and Privacy & Security.

For each section, there may be one or more fundamental questions that you are going to answer and then classify and score your answer. After finishing all three, sum the figures you have got for each section. This final number can be interpreted as a numerical representation of how calm a product or service is.

Now, it is time to focus on each section.


Forget about what ads are promoting and go after what users and specialists are saying. Take your time to do your homework. Keep in mind that the real world is nothing like Disneyland and therefore Internet is not all times accessible, power outages do happen, the service or product itself is subject to fail, and your cat might not have the same taste as you. The goal here is to analyze if the service or product is viable. In other words, if it is still worth buying or signing up based on the way it behaves in the wild.

After you are happy with your investigation, see where it fits in the classification below and then apply the corresponding punctuation.

(Inviable) - The product or service does not meet its primary purpose. For example, an alarm clock's buzzer sound that even when set to the maximum volume, it is still so low that by any means, it would never wake you up. In this case, there is no point in carrying on the analysis for this specific product or service, and it should be removed from your list of options.

5 (Viable, but restrictions apply) - The product or service does meet its primary purpose, but there is no resilience added to the design. For example, an alarm clock capable of waking you up, as long as it is connected to an energized power outlet.

10 (Viable and resilient) - The product or service meets its primary purpose and offers builtin resilience to its design. For example, we could add a battery power backup to the above clock to avoid the product from not functioning in case of a power outage.


You are the only one that can best decide your path thru technology.

We all have to realize two inevitable aspects of our life as human beings: First, time is an unrecoverable resource. Second, our attention is indivisible and therefore - and against common sense - it is impossible to achieve real multitasking. With these two points in mind, be prepared to evaluate how a product or service uses your attention and thus your time.

You should verify if the service or product:

- Allows you to control notifications.

- Can perform tasks without demanding your attention.

- Informs without overwhelming.

- Has a fast and easy to use interface.

For each of the above, answer with Yes (2.5) or No (0). Add all four results to get the final score for this section.

Privacy & Security

Read the Terms of Use of the service or product to understand how your sensitive data will be stored and manipulated. Also, check if it is possible to use the service or product without submitting any personal data. Nowadays, there is a considerable risk that this data could get compromised. How would you feel if that happened to you?

To score this section, think about answering the following questions:

"I trust the security and privacy offered to me by the manufacturer or the service provider." On a scale of 0 to 5, where 0 means having no trust and 5 having sufficient confidence to feel comfortable in using a product or signing up for the service.

"Is it possible to still use the product or service without having to submit personal data to it?" Answer with Yes (5) or No (0).

Add the resulting scores to get the rating for this section.

Final Score

When you finish evaluating all three sections, sum all your results. The product or service with a higher score will have the tendency to be the best choice in terms of calm technology adherence.

I really hope this simple method inspires people to reflect when making decisions regarding purchasing technology products and signing up to services.

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