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What Is Empathy in UX Design?

skills Mar 07, 2022

User experience is one of the most important aspects of a product. If people don't enjoy using your product, they won't continue to use it. This is why empathy is so important in UX design. When you put yourself in the shoes of your users, you can create a product that they will love. In this article, we will discuss what empathy is and how you can use it to improve your user experience!

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. When you are empathizing with your users, you are trying to understand their needs and desires. 

The words empathy and sympathy often are used interchangeably. However, the terms are quite different. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone else. Empathy goes beyond sympathy. Rather than feeling for someone, it is feeling with someone. The element of connection with the person makes the difference.

What is empathy in UX design?

Empathetic design centers connection with the user. This connection is paramount for meaningful and impactful user-centric design. User-centric design is created with the needs, pain points, and desires of the user top of mind in all steps of the process.

Empathy in UX design means understanding and responding to the needs of your users. It requires you to walk a mile in their shoes. An empathetic designer can put themselves into the user's mindset, understand what they are experiencing, and identify ways that their product can be improved for them.

How to be more empathetic as a UX designer

Ways to better understand and respond to the needs of your users include thorough research and observation. Empathy in UX design is important to understand what your users are experiencing.

Conducting diverse user interviews, surveys, and focus groups are all methods that will allow you to gather information and feedback from your users directly. This data can be used as an indicator of how they feel about specific aspects of the product.

Observation and surveys are great ways to gather information, but digging a bit deeper by asking open-ended questions, practicing active listening skills, and reflecting in your interviews can significantly deepen understanding. Active listening is listening on purpose and being present with the person wholly. 

An empathy map is an essential and valuable tool. It centers the user's needs using 4 different quadrants (Says, Thinks, Does, and Feels). Separating these quadrants gives a clearer picture of the user's experience in ways that may not always be apparent. What a user thinks may actually look quite different in action. Empathy maps are visual representations that serve as great reminders that users are humans, after all!

What are the benefits of empathy in UX design?

Empathetic design is beneficial because it truly meets the needs and desires of the users. Users feel more understood and feel their needs are being met. According to psychologists that study human motivation, meeting three psychological needs is essential in UX design because people are selective and efficient in where they spend their time. These psychological needs are autonomy, relatedness, and competence. If these needs are met, users are more likely to use a product.

Another benefit is that users feel like they are a part of the design process. Users can feel a sense of connection and co-creation of a product that helps them somehow. This can result in users feeling more positively about the product and being more likely to continue using it.

Here are 3 Great Examples of Empathetic UX Design:

Each of these examples illustrates thoughtful design examples with empathy at the forefront, according to ReallyGoodUX:

  • Calm, a wellness app, immediately asks the user what they would like to accomplish by using the app. Right away, the needs of the user are centered. 
  • Calendly is a popular scheduling tool. Calendly places emphasis on the user journey and the importance of maintaining a connection with others with ease. 
  • Simplicity and visual clarity on the landing page of Airbnb is an example of not overloading the user cognitively. The design has the user in mind by decreasing the brain's workload. 

In conclusion, empathy is key in UX design. It allows you to understand your users better and create a product that meets their needs. By understanding what the user wants and needs, you can create a more positive experience. Schedule a mentoring session to find out how your empathetic skills can transfer to a new career in UX design today!

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