How to improve empathy in the design thinking process?
We heard and read about the word empathy many times before. How being empathic could support your design thinking process in creating better products for your users. Being empathic is different from sympathy. Empathy is not only about understanding your users but intending to solve your users' problems; gathering the Why data. Sympathy on the other hand, is feeling sorry and understanding the situation from your perspective without analyzing why the other party feels and thinks in a certain way.
As designers, you are encouraged to be empathic towards your users. To make the world a better place, a better user experience, inventing a great product that people will love!
What is a Design Thinking Process?
A design thinking process is a non-linear 5 steps process that designers need to develop when creating a product or a service. The 5 steps of a design thinking process are:
Empathize - Understanding your users
Define - Collecting users’ data
Ideate - Strategize ideas to accommodate research needs
Prototype - Creating solutions based on users’ problems
Test - Testing the solutions
These steps are crucial for designers to understand and fulfill the needs of the target users. In this blog, we will be focusing on the first important step of the design thinking process which is Empathize- applying empathy in the design thinking process.
The Importance of Empathy in the Design Thinking Process
Empathy is the ability to understand your users’ problems, needs, and wants. It is about listening and reaching out to your users. Being in their shoes. The success of your product are depending on how it can solve your users’ problems, make your users happy, and create a good user experience. Hence, this is why this soft skill is a valuable skill to learn, adapt and practice over time.
The benefits of empathy in design thinking:
Users feel heard and attended
Reveal important information about your users that you might not think of
Increase the ‘life-span’ of your product
Creating a better user experience
Support the process of customer mapping journey
and many more.
The 3 Strategies to achieve empathy in the design thinking process
The Empathy Map by Nielsen Norman Group
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, by structuring the empathy map in this manner designers are able to:
Get rid of bias in designs and align the team on a common understanding of its user
Identify your research weaknesses
Identify user needs that they may not even realize they have
Analyze why people behave the way they do
Design meaningful innovations with these guidelines
Empathy Map Canvas by David Gray
Each of these parts is associated with the other.
Who are we empathizing with?
What decisions do they make?
What do these users see?
What do they talk about?
What do they do and what are their lifestyles?
What do the defined users hear about?
What do they think or feel?
Tips to achieve empathy in the design thinking process:
Remove any concrete assumptions or judgments. You will connect with your users better without any expectations.
Be present and remove any form of interruption. Fully engage with your user. Listen to their problems, study their facial expressions and body language.
Have breaks between questions. Taking breaks may allow some time for quality answers and prevent burnout from answering questions back to back.
Observe, listen, and learn from your users. Reflect on their answers and behaviors. What makes them behave in that particular manner?
Be curious about the answers. Ask more questions to understand your users’ perspectives.