Empathy is an important facet of the human experience. It helps us see things from another person’s perspective, and put ourselves in their shoes, so to speak. It is through empathy that we are able to recognize another’s feelings and thoughts.

Empathy can be just as important when it comes to the user experience. It’s particularly important for developers and designers, as the fact of the matter is, they are not the user. However, being empathetic toward potential users and the experience they may have with the application, can help the UX team create the best product possible.

Empathy to gain understanding

During the design process, it’s easy for the team to get caught up in the tasks that make up their job. It can be simple to fall into a rhythm during designing. The gap between designers and users during the majority of projects is potentially damaging to UX, and while this may speed time-to-market, it may also be contributing to the team missing major wants and needs of the target users. For this, it’s critically important that empathy is worked during the design process.

As a UX expert, I can assure that the User focussed design is kinda difficult. One of the main challenges is the lack of appreciation of how users think and work.

It’s an incorrect thought, but though, a frequently one, to believe users will solve problems in the same way as we do.

Empathy can help designers improve their understanding of what users may want, need or require from the app design being created. Taking the time to carry out this user research, will guide you into your decision-making processes. When the design team thinks outside the box and puts themselves in the minds of their target user group, they can create a design that better aligns with their preferences.

Building a deeper connection

Incorporating empathy into the designing and development process can also help users forge a deeper connection with the app, once it’s released, and the brand, by extension. Recognizing and reflecting user interests in a product helps it perform better. However, this can only happen if the team takes the time to consider how users will be impacted.

How to incorporate empathy

While making empathy part of the process makes perfect sense, it is often easier said than done. It’s not only about recognizing how a user may feel about an application, but why he or she might have these feelings, as well.

There are a few winning strategies designers can leverage to ensure empathy is part of the equation. Let’s take a look:

  • Create an empathy map: An empathy map – a visual representation of the thoughts, feelings and insights of the user – can be particularly beneficial. The map includes a face (representing the user) in the middle, surrounded by six sections: Think and Feel, Hear, See, Say and Do, Pain, and Gain.
    This can better help the team put themselves into the mind of the user, taking the time to think about how different things might affect their thoughts, feelings and outward actions.
  • Shadow potential users: I recommend shadowing users, when possible. While this capability will depend on the type of application being designed, I suggested first shadowing a friend or family member as they use the product, or a program or platform that the application will replace. Watching how this person interacts with the app to complete a task can provide considerable insights.
  • Play the part of the user: Role playing can also be advantageous during this process. Having the team act out and discuss the ways a user might interact with the application can improve understanding and boost empathy. This is particularly true if the actor runs into a challenge or issue during role playing. This process can help the team level with the user, and better grasp how to address and avoid this potential problem.

In summary, having the capability to observe, capture some data, analyse it, proposing a brainstorming for possible solutions and developing prototypes for these solutions, will make an outstanding difference in the design we can create.

Incorporating empathy can help designers think in a different vein and gain insight into the experience users will have with the application we are designing. By putting ourselves in the user’s shoes, we can identify preferences and establish an app design that is aligned with these wants and needs. And this is a key added value that as UX designer we can provide to the projects we are facing.