Have you ever used a product (website, app, software) that looks good and seems easy enough to use, only to find yourself not being able to find what you are looking for or getting confused about what certain buttons do? These are examples of products that are created with certain aspects of the User Experience (UX) in mind, but have left out the most important part; user empathy.
User empathy is the designer’s ability to see their product through the perspective of the users. This includes understanding the needs, wants, and objectives of the product user. Without these considerations, a product may make sense to the designer, but not make sense to the user.
In today’s world there are many similar products to choose from and often the choice between them comes down to how “user friendly” the product is. In other words, a particular product is chosen because the product designers and developers took the time to empathize with those who will be using it.
Understanding how users will use a product may not sound complicated, but there are many factors that must be considered.
- Who will be using this? The users can range from a grandmother that just learned to use the internet to an IT data analyst. In some cases they will all be using the same product, and it has to make sense to them.
- What will they be using it for? Some users may use a product every day as an essential tool for work, while other users only occasionally use it for fun.
- How much or how little information will they need? Some users may want more detailed information, and others may only need a summary of the information.
These are just a few examples of the many questions that product designers ask when creating a product.
Aside from asking questions, there are other techniques that product designers can utilize to better understand users, such as:
- Observing User Groups: Sometimes we only know what we can see. Watching how users interact with a product in real world situations is one of the most useful methods to discover their expectations. By observing user groups, you are able to see exactly how users expect the product to work and how easy or difficult it is for them to use.
- Customer Surveys: Existing users that are already familiar with your product are also helpful in understanding user needs. Customer surveys are a good way to improve a product, simply by asking users what they like and don’t like.
- Creating Empathy Maps: A good way to visualize the needs of a product user is to create an empathy map. An empathy map takes into account what users Say, Think, Do, and Feel. Having a visual representation can help product designers see all of the user’s needs in one place.
Starting a project with empathy in mind is the best way to ensure that users understand your product and get the most use out of the product.
When he isn’t cheering on his favorite soccer team or playing guitar, Ryan is Director of the Product Design team. Most days, he can be found behind his laptop geeking out about Lean UX and human-centered design practices.