What is empathy?
According to Psychology Today, Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You try to imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing.
Empathy is often confused with Sympathy, Sympathy is an act that you show your care for someone. To genuinely design something that meets the users’ need, you must have empathy. Showing the users that you care is not enough.
Being a designer, you need to step out of your own office and talk with your users. During the process, you would understand the daily life of the users, what their struggles are, what goals they want to achieve, how the product solves their problem, how they use the product and how they feel when they are using it. By listening to the users’ sharing, you would be able to resonate and empathise with them.
UX doesn’t live inside our phones or our websites. We need to step way outside of those devices to understand what people are doing in the real world. — Matt Hryhorsky
Empathy in practice
In practice, before working on the product features and the interface design (or redesign), find out how your product could make a difference to the current market, the questions you can ask yourself include but not limited to:
- What are missing in the current products on the market?
- What don’t your target users or users like about the current products?
- How would your product make a difference or Is your product similar to the ones on the market?
All these questions help you design a product that truly answers your users’ needs. Remember, think in their shoes, feel their pain and design a solution that makes their life better.
Empathy map is a visualisation tool to analyse a user segment or persona. You can gain insights, such as how the users in that segment think, do, hear, feel, say, see and most importantly, the reasons behind of all these. Empathy map should be used at the very beginning of a design process and the answers could be obtained via your research or based on your observation during your meeting with the users. You don’t need to use any special app to create an empathy map. A piece of paper would do the job.
Before working on an empathy map
Before you start creating an empathy map, make sure that:
- You are not doing this all by yourself, you should share this task with your team as you would get more ideas and inputs from them.
- Each empathy map is only for one persona or segment. If your product has more than one persona or segment, you will need to create an empathy map for each of them.
- Let your meeting participants know about the personas beforehand, for instance, each persona should have a name, gender, age, an occupation and so on. By doing this, your meeting participants would be able to think in the persona’s shoes and really empathise with it.
- If you are creating an empathy map based on the data from a user research, give your meeting participants enough time to read and digest the research prior to the meeting.
During the empathy map creation meeting
You can use a big piece of paper or a whiteboard to create an empathy map. This is how an empathy map looks like:
An empathy map consists of four quadrants at the top:
- Think or feel
- Say or do
The image above details what you should add to each area. Try to be as detailed as possible. During the meeting, give each meeting participant a stack of post-its, ask them to write down their ideas, thoughts, quotes and so on for each area and finally they can place the post-its in the appropriate areas. The more details an empathy map includes, the more accurate and insightful it would become.
At the bottom of an empathy map, there are two areas called pain and gain. In the area, pain, you should include the struggles the users are having. In the area, gain, you can add the goals that the users want to accomplish. These two areas are very important as your team would make product development decisions based on the information here.
After the empathy map creation meeting
The empathy map is a very valuable asset in your company. You can use it in the design, product development process as well as your marketing campaigns. If your empathy map is on a piece of paper, you can stick it on the wall, and your team can refer to it when working on the product. If your empathy map is in a digital form, share it on Slack or in other team collaboration app so everyone can have access to it.
Left unchecked, technology turns people into proxies. That’s why it’s so crucial that we integrate empathy and compassion into the design process. — Whitney Hess
Design is not only about how a product looks on the outside, it is also about how the product works and whether it truly meets the users’ needs and expectations. Integrating empathy in your design would turn a soulless product into something memorable and enjoyable to use — only that can make your business lasts and excels.