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Is Your Product Designed to Be Calm?

A scorecard for creating human-centered, anxiety-free solutions

Since I started speaking about calm technology and designing with attention, designers and developers often ask me if a particular product they’re helping create is calm — i.e. designed to seamlessly, unobtrusively integrate with person’s life and daily habits.

“Facebook Messenger how to turn off notifications” is such a popular search requests, it returns 21,100 results, including this WikiHow guide

We deal with non-calm products every day. Jeremiah Owyang noticed that the new Facebook Messenger asks users to turn on notifications four times. Website users are frequently pushed into downloading mobile apps with banners and popovers. Some apps turn notifications on by default, resulting in a never-ending barrage of robotic spam.

Making a good product is an important responsibility, especially if the product is close enough to someone that it can be the difference between life and death. Even though the end result might by calm, designing a calm, human-centered product requires some anxiety and perfectionism from everyone on the team, not just the designer.

While every product comes with its own unique considerations, there are some clear cut calm design principles that largely hold true for most products. As a way to start, consider taking this Calm Design quiz (still in beta!).

User Experience

Start from 100, adding and subtracting points allotted to each question. (Skip this category if it doesn’t directly apply to your product.)

Photo credit: PCR Online

Does the product:

Start from 100, adding and subtracting points allotted to each question. (Skip this category if it doesn’t directly apply to your product.)

Photo credit: Car Light Blog

Does the product:

Privacy

Start from 100, adding and subtracting points allotted to each question. (Skip this category if it doesn’t directly apply to your product.)

Photo credit: Meerkat’s Medium

Does the product:

Digital Well-being and Time Well Spent

Start from 100, adding and subtracting points allotted to each question. (Skip this category if it doesn’t directly apply to your product.)

Photo credit: Engadget

Does your product:

Customer Support & Fail States

Start from 100, adding and subtracting points allotted to each question. (Skip this category if it doesn’t directly apply to your product.)

Even if Google Chrome is unable to connect to the Internet, Google Docs can still be used in its offline mode

Does your product:

Calculate your Calm Score for each category

Review all the scores you’ve tabulated so far. For any score that falls below 0, your total is 0; for any above 100, your total is 100. The result is your Calm Tech grade for each category, scored along the standard US school system. As noted, it’s likely that most products will score well in one category, but poorly in others — even many products that are often acclaimed for having a great user experience.

This is the first iteration of the calm technology quiz, which is very much in beta — thanks so much for taking it! I hope to update it soon — please connect with me on Twitter to share your thoughts.

For further thoughts, see: Does Your Product Respect Users’ Time & Attention? A Calm Technology Checklist, and Calm Tech UX & Inclusive Design Principles at Microsoft.

This article was originally published on Amber’s Medium page.

Design advocate, speaker, and Harvard/MIT research fellow. Founder of Geoloqi (acq. by Esri), author of Calm Technology & Designing With Sound. Caseorganic.com

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