Having empathy is the ability to fully understand, mirror, and then share a person’s expressions, needs, and motivations. For UX, empathy allows us to understand our user’s needs and frustrations as well as hopes, fears, abilities, limitations, reasoning and goals while using a product. Having empathy for the customer is a crucial part of UX design, without it you will never truly be able to execute a product fully or you will always be making iterations based on user feedback.
You must start with qualitative research methods for practicing empathy. By either using methods such as user interviews, cognitive mapping, or diary studies you can use that information to dig into a user’s behavior, goals, and pain points. Also in UX, you need to remember to “design for the average – and test with the extremes.” Having empathy for those who don’t fit in your personas will help create a more well-rounded product.
You can also create an empathy map after conducting a user study, empathy maps are split into 4 quadrants (see below), with the persona in the middle. Empathy maps provide a glance into who a user is. The “Says” quadrant contains what the user says out loud in an interview or some other usability study. For example, here is where you would state their goals or things they have said were concerns. The “Thinks” section captures what the user is thinking throughout the experience. This is where empathy is truly crucial, you need to put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine what the user is thinking while conducting the test. The “Does” quadrant encloses the actions the user takes. For example how many times the user refreshes the page, or goes back because the missed something. The “Feels” section is the user’s emotional state, often represented as an adjective plus a short sentence for context. For example, the user can be described as “impatient” if the page is loading too slowly.
Also conducting a diverse team will aid in your empathy practice. For example, if you have an all-male group in their mid to late 20’s, you will find a very narrow set of results in your study. Having a broad range of demographics and backgrounds will help you in your efforts.
I loved how one of my articles in researching empathy, concluded it said, “Empathy allows us to design with intent, have focus and clarity, advocate on behalf of our users, and challenge our assumptions.”