Recently I’ve hit a few milestones, I’m coming up to a year in my latest role, I’m moving to a new project and I turned 30, with that, naturally comes a lot of reflection.
Reflecting on user research, user centred design and delivering products, it’s struck me just how important empathy is. Whilst this comes as no surprise to many, actions often speak louder than words and even then sometimes the words used are pretty stupid.
Just a brief reminder of what empathy is with the Hulk and Murray...
See it's important to the Hulk, Sesame Street's Murray and therefore millions of pre-schoolers, this stuff is important, and you don't want to make any of them angry...
I’ve been in a meeting before where someone has spouted the following: “It’s not our fault if our users are too thick to work out how to use the system.” Slackjawed, I watched some in the room turn purple whilst others didn’t realise the impact of what had been said. The lack of empathy and understanding for users was shocking. Except it wasn’t, at least not to all in the room, some knew that members of the team developing products held their users in such contempt, whilst others didn’t think anything was wrong. How can companies create products that users love if the teams behind the products resent their users?
Empathising with users is so important when creating a product, building a world around them to make them feel empowered and the heroes of their own story. A good product or service becomes an extension of the self, something which feels natural and helps complete a goal. Learning the user’s desire, motivations and most importantly their intent, allows us to build the world around them.
Whilst this shouldn’t need to be said, I often find that it does need to be said. We must always fight the corner for our user, making their needs known. An effective method in achieving this is ensuring the entire team is involved in user research, research is recorded to show others and where possible get the killer quote. Nobody can sum up their problem better than the user themselves, with a concise, succinct quote, a user can often outline a situation far better than anyone else on the team.
In review, I guess that you already knew that empathy was important, but did you gather how important it really is? Can you empathise with the stresses of the user where your product may just be a tiny component of their life? With all the stress and frustrations of modern life, all they want is your product to just work.
Yep, empathy is important, I'm sure you can empathise with that.