Empathy in design vol.1

In the context of design my favourite definition of empathy would be — ‘empathy is observation and understanding of the users with a goal to identify their latent needs to be able to create products they didn’t know they desire.’

In order to see that, you need to step into the shoes of the other aiming to understand their feelings, thoughts and the reasoning behind. We need empathy to dig deeper, to look for those thoughtless acts which reveal the true intentions and tendencies a user has.

Users want to travel from A to B faster. Their desired solution — faster horse, perfectly logical solution looking at the problem from the usual standpoint. And it’s okay as it’s not the users job to come up with a new ideas to spot and solve their problems. So if look deeper we can spot that the problem is also maintenance of a horse, limited distances and hours they can work. The result is fixing the problem users were aware of and solving a few more that they haven’t even seen existing.

UX before internet was invented.

We are very well familiar with delightful experiences in analog world. The origins of user experience is in those small corner shops where the owner greets you by the name, knows your family, your taste, where you work etc. Users sense when a business actually cares about them and love those products/services in return. Just one friendly and attentive person at the counter is enough for us to feel satisfied and happy with the experience.

And what is our response when things don’t go well? Research from Telegraph.co.uk suggested that service is by far the biggest factor behind negative reviews on TripAdvisor. Indeed we have a very low tolerance when we are paying, but are being treated rude in return.

Meanwhile, 58 percent of consumers are willing to spend more on companies that provide excellent customer service, according to American Express. We’ve all been there, when we want to leave a bigger tip, because the waiter was so friendly and nice.

Another research from McKinsey research has shown that 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. Large part of that has to do with showing the customer that your brand does care and value them.

So in conclusion, crafting delightful and meaningful experiences is a win-win situation, both for business and for the customers.

Digital era

So what happened? Why are we failing to transfer that delight to a digital world? Or are we failing?…. A few challenges of today:

_we replaced that nice customer service person with a machine and that one wasn’t coded to be polite.

_we got so overwhelmed by the new possibilities of technology that we forgot who are we designing for. We started designing for screens forgetting that in the end humans are the ones using it. We need the same attention to details, because the need for attention and care is the same.

_globalisation strikes hard. We are not designing products for the neighbourhood anymore, our target users are from China to Puerto Rico, making it harder to find a middle ground!

_we are all learning as we go. We don’t know when there is another breakthrough in technology. We are inventing, adapting, reconstructing things everyday and no one can stay in their comfort zone for a decade. It’s not safe to read articles from 2015 as most likely things written there are already outdated. And it’s only two years!

One of the ways to face those challenges is sticking to emphatic design approach which enables us to keep human as a centre of our design process.

Don’t get me wrong, empathy is not an all-in-1-silverbullet solution and doesn’t guarantee success, but if you design for people and with people in mind chances to create something meaningful and likeable are way higher.

Thank you for reading!

Your comments, insights, claps, likes are very much appreciated!

Second blog on this topic is here.