Why User Empathy is Important to Design

empathy_mapping

The general definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. When you empathize with the users of a product or website, you see things from their point of view and not just through your own perspective. Through empathy, you begin to understand that not everyone comprehends the product or service.

Empathy maps are a great way to assess what users are thinking and feeling when they are using a product or service. They help build a broader understanding of what’s behind user needs and actions. This knowledge will help you anticipate how a user might approach a website.

Sections of an Empathy map include the following:

  • Tasks – What tasks are users trying to complete? What questions do they need answered?
  • Feelings – How is the user feeling about the experience? What matters to them?
  • Influences – What people, things or places may influence how the user acts?
  • Pain points – What pain points might the user be experiencing that they hope to overcome?
  • Goals – What is the user’s ultimate goal? What are they trying to achieve?

User empathy research is the process of developing an understanding of the user. It’s not just about their needs but understanding their constraints, practices, problem-solving and influencing relationships. Researching users is a way to help designers identify their users’ underlying needs. Once the need is established, the user experience can be created with new problem-solving approaches that accommodate the user. The ultimate goal is to improve the user’s experience by designing to their explicit needs.

The need for empathy in design is an important factor as the beginning of User Experience. We must develop an understanding of how to design products that appeal to people of different cultures, variety of backgrounds and social influences. Through user empathy, we can begin to understand how and why users interact, feel and solve issues that relate to the product and website.

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