Diary of a UX Padawan: Growing Empathy

My personal angle on what Mapan user is for me

The relationship between our product and the users has similarities to the relationship of a couple, more than what we might have known—at least based on my first 6 months exposure as UX person at Mapan.id. We want to understand their needs while at the same time try to understand ours, we want them to enjoy every moment when they are using our product, we want to understand their frustration and to find how we can help. We also want them to find us useful so that they are willing to stay and never leave us for other services. I find this interaction is a beautiful thing to comprehend.

In Mapan (formerly known as PT. RUMA or Rekan Usaha Mikro Anda), the startup where I work as UX Designer and Researcher, we put “member first” as one of our principles. The principle serves as a guide for me to always put member’s needs as top priority and takes a major part in designing the product (website and application). Our major users are members of Mapan application, where we provide access for low-income people to buy goods with instalments, learn more about Mapan here. We have conducted many meet ups with our members and I learn a lot from them.

As UX Designer and Researcher, I have found the more my understanding with user grows, the more I gain insights and feel confident in designing. By communicating with user, I grow to understand what are their preferences, what makes them happy, and what makes them sad.

I have conducted research where I merely treat respondents as research subjects and nothing else. But after I learned to have more empathy to the respondents, I feel inclined to really heed their opinion. The answer is not limited just by them answering the research questions, but why and what are their emotions. It opens more possibilities and broaden my perspective to understand the problem I want to solve. The challenge that I found is it’s alluring for me to treat myself as the user, by claiming that I have empathy with them and can position myself as in their position. But by the principle of you are not your user, I avoid moments that I think I am the user, and take a step back again to research result and data. Based on my experience, I want to share my opinion in growing empathy to have better understanding.

Listen to their problems

The more they share, the more they trust

Research is not done just by asking and answering, but it needs one to see what goes beyond that. By listening to their problems, we can see how users correlate their life to our product. Maybe their problem is not directly related to the product use, but no insights are useless. We can have data for future development and what problem to solve.

Problems always come and go, so not only we listen to their problems, we also dig deeper to how they act toward their problems. It’s not uncommon to see difference approaches to solve the same problem. By communicating with different people, we can see from different perspective and grow more empathy. It will also create possible scenarios on how users will behave to the solution, and with that in mind we can design the optimal solution.

Be thankful and always appreciate

Be happy for our user’s happiness

One thing that stands out in Mapan is the member-first principle. We always find ways to think for the better of our user, and what can we do more. Appreciation may benefit for our users’ satisfaction, but it goes beyond that. By having positive thoughts about our users’ existence, we can have empathy in what makes them happy when they interact with our product. We can have more understanding in which how they use our product to solve their problem, and it may differs from how we originally planned.

Appreciation also doesn’t only go to positive feedbacks, but also the negative one. Acknowledging users’ complaint will make us know what needs to be fixed, or if it doesn’t mean to be a problem, we can adjust how we communicate with them and avoid any missing links. Be thankful that someone spend their time and effort to give feedback, and this will grow our empathy in how our users behave.

Be their friend

By knowing them personally, there’s many more to gain

When doing research, there’s little chance you will encounter your respondents again, but that’s not excuse to not be their friend. Simply addressing by name and try to interact in friendlier way will bring different result. Everyday, we have different attitude in when talking with strangers and talking with friends, and so do our users. Users will feel more relaxed when you treat them as a friend and may share more detail of their story.

Being friends also will make it easier when you try to recall what interaction you have when interviewing them. Because the moment spent will be more memorable. Growing empathy for your friends is also easier and you can gain deeper insights. Be wary though, being over-friendly may make them uncomfortable.

What Next: Share share share!

Design sprint is one method of sharing the empathy

Different people have different roles. Developers may will not have allocated time to do research, but we can share the empathy with them. In Mapan, we usually have design sprint and it’s the task for UX Designer and Researcher to share not only the problem faced by users, but also users’ behavior and emotion. This way, we can grow more empathy as the team and develop the optimal solution suitable for our users. There are many methods of sharing, such as developing personas and user journeys. We have to ensure that everyone doesn’t treat users as mere object and also can relate to them to some extent.

Growing more empathy to users give many benefit and by doing research to gain understanding, we can have special relationship with our users. For me, users are my friends that I want to know what their problems are, what makes them happy, and the ones I’m thankful for being with me.

That’s my piece of thoughts on what users are for me.

What are users for you?

Please do share your thoughts in the comment section and let’s learn together!