Sensitive Technology

Principles for Making Technology Human

Picture this:
  • Four and a half million homes are opened to strangers in 81,000 cities through Airbnb.
  • Each year we take 4 billion Uber trips to visit friends, family, colleagues and clients.
  • Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant are having conversations in homes around the world, with 100 million sold just a few years after launch.
  • Three hundred million people are learning a new language through Duolingo.
  • Thirty million people are reducing their stress and increasing their focus with Headspace.
  • Forty-five trillion steps were taken and 41 billion hours slept with a Fitbit just last year.

How do technologies earn the permission to be deeply integrated into our lives?

It is in part because of what they do for us. They save us time, help us exercise more, make us extra money. But it is also because of how they do it.

Good technologies accommodate us as humans. They are understanding of the information and guarantees we need to let a stranger stay in our home. They are compassionate to our concerns for family members on a taxi journey, so help us track their location. They are perceptive in how they respond to our voice commands.

They are attentive to how we learn and achieve. And they are delicate with the encouragement that guides us towards healthier minds and bodies.

Designed without such considerations, the functional value of technology may be left untapped. With these considerations, technology becomes sensitive to us as humans. And using it comes naturally.

To help technologies realize their potential,* we developed a design approach underpinned by behavioral science. We call it Sensitive Technology. It sets a design responsibility for technology — to be understanding, compassionate, perceptive, attentive and delicate.

Sensitive technologies account for our human nature as well as our context, and they respond considerately. This matters because only technology that is sensitive to our thoughts, feelings and behaviors will be deeply integrated into our lives.

We propose five sensitivities in particular that technologies need to account for. For each we suggest three ways technology can respond.

Sensitive technologies must …

  1. Welcome me
  2. Reassure me
  3. Protect me
  4. Connect with me
  5. Be good to me

As customers traverse an increasingly digital landscape, technologies centered around human thoughts, feelings and behaviors can stand out and realize their potential of being deeply integrated into our lives.


To help you apply these steps we have included a Sensitive Design canvas and a cheat sheet. Use these to enrich your new experiences and examine current ones.



Questions to ask of your technology: first in the shoes of the customer, then in your own shoes.


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Sensitive Technology