Essential trait of a Product Designer
Empathy. Yes, empathy! Empathy allows us to relate to others. And for design, to put ourselves in others’ shoes to try to understand how we can make the product we’re working on work for them. If you want to be a UX Designer, understand that not every product you work for will only be made for you.
“Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.”
- Neil Gaiman
The realization of the importance of UX couldn’t have come at a worse time. With people taking selfies at funerals, it’s probably safe to say that twenty-somethings (including me) could work on their empathetic ability.
All is not lost. You just have to practice. Honing an ability like empathy is a never-ending process and will change the way you think, and how you interact with others.
1. Understand yourself
The first step is to start asking why for everything; not out loud, you don’t want anyone thinking that you’re crazy. Ask yourself why you do what you do. Realize your strengths, weaknesses, insecurities and fears. Because when you can understand yourself and why you do what you do, you can begin to understand other people.
My fellow introverts will have an easier time with this, and probably have a fair hold on the first step. But don’t despair extroverts, after you “master” the first step, the second will be easier for you.
2. Step away.
The next step is to get away from you fucking computer. Get away from your computer, and your pens/pencils. Go outside and meet people. Just talk to random people and ask as many questions as possible about them, without being creepy. Make new friends.
Make it as random as possible. You’re not trying to meet people who are the same as you. I know, it sounds weird and difficult. I, thankfully, have a wife who lovingly forces me to meet all kinds of new people every week,which makes it a lot easier.
If you don’t happen to have my wife around to force you into new situations, or you’re unwilling to walk up to strangers and strike up conversation, the next best thing is to volunteer. Find something locally that piques your interest and volunteer a couple hours every week or two. Even the SPCA will work. Just keep in mind that your goal is to interact with people.
“A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain.”
- Daniel Goleman
Remember that UX Design is about the user experience; about people. You’ll never be a great at it until you can empathize.