Empathy is defined by the metaphors of ‘standing in someone else’s shoes’ or ‘seeing through someone else’s eyes’. Simply put, it is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
Empathy is a super-skill that all User Experience designers should possess. ‘Seeing through someone else’s eyes’ is not as easy as it sounds. To understand user’s perspectives, we need to understand the users.
To understand our users well, we have to communicate with them. And guess what, you will be awestruck with the ideas and solutions that they have for various pain areas.
Typically, in a usability testing, more the number of test users, more the number of usability problems identified.
Likewise, if a problem is discussed with a large number of users, chances are that the number of solutions obtained would also be high. However, care should be taken in identifying the category of users, i.e. whether they are low/high influencers or if they are high/low interest groups.
To hone a social skill like empathy, we must move out of our comfort zones by breaking silos and engaging more and more with people directly or indirectly. They could belong to varied professions, diverse culture or a different demographics altogether. For an empathic UX designer, it is imperative to have active listening skills. It is also a good practice to have the stakeholders’ comments/solutions recorded. However, you must not resort to following their comments blindly.
The final solution that we build should be tailored based on the users’ comments and should effectively be able to resolve all known user problems. After all, User Experience is all about empathy!