Empathy is everywhere.

This quarter, I took the HCDE517: Usability Study on Thursday evening. The course is incredibly good for its experienced guest speakers and hands-on project with big name clients.

With another three students, I am currently planing a usability testing on one new product for Facebook. One major thing I learnt is Empathy which is no longer an abstract word any more. In stead, it really makes a difference in a real usability study session. Making users feel comfortable is crucial for getting reliable feedback. Here are four things that may show your empathy to the participants.

#1 “ Tell me what’s going on”

When you want to understand what happened, ask “ tell me what’s going on”, instead of “ what are you thinking?” One keynote speaker gave us a real demonstration. She conducted two quick usability testings in the classroom with one saying the former, and the another one the latter. It was very obvious that two students give very different reaction to the verbal nuance. Make users feel you are caring about them, not questioning them.

#2 “It’s not your problem, it’s ours.”

During the test, users are likely to feel they are being judged based on their performance. Avoid taking about “ test”. Say “ We will be watching you… that will help us improve our product.” Don’t imply that they will be judged by their tasks. Someone told me that don’t even mention “ good job” when they finish the tasks. But I guess it is fine. If the users do meet some problems that make them frustrated, reinforce their confidence is very important. Thank them for sharing the insights with you. Even they failed to do something, the test is still meaningful.

#3 “Don’t worry if you have no idea about that.”

It is a little bit similar with the #2, a way to make users calm down and be comfortable with their tasks. Sometimes we need to test users with zero experience, it is not a problem if the users know nothing about our product. However, the users may not think so. Our job is to make them feel it doesn’t matter. All they need to do is to behave like themselves.

#4 Two way communication

Two way communication is something really important for empathy, showing you are caring about the users. People tend to forget it when in the remote user testing. When users talk about their questions, provide the answers if necessary. When users talk about their anxiety, make them calm down. When users talk about their life, show your interest. Always provide feedback. It is super super important!

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