What is empathic design? Why in the world of product design and UI/UX design, in addition to the important concept of human-centered design, there was a need to define Empathetic Design? Why is it said that if the product design is not empathic, the product will fail? More basic and important than all the previous questions is whether the UI/UX designer knows the meaning of empathy and empathizing.

Have you ever been in a situation where you need to comfort someone, but you don’t know what to say or what to do to calm them down? It’s not your fault. You cannot understand him. Because you have never been in that situation. What he is experiencing, you have not experienced. For this reason, you may not be able to find out his problems and needs properly and help him to calm down.

Now imagine, the product design team wants to design an app for working mothers, who don’t have time to exercise much. If designers don’t understand the situation of working mothers and can’t properly understand their needs and problems, is it possible that the product they design will benefit working mothers and help them?

If the product design team doesn’t design the application sympathetically, the useful and useful product for the target group will not be designed and produced. Therefore, the UI/UX designer must know the answers to the questions posed at the beginning of this article. This article answers those questions.

Empathetic Design in UI/UX

As mentioned in the introduction, the essence of product design is human-centered design. A digital product is designed and made for humans. Users of websites and apps are humans, and their user interface and user experience should be designed so that humans can easily interact with the product. A human-centered product or service that meets a user’s need or solves a problem.

The first and most important step for product design (human-centered) is knowing the user. But the point is that if the UI/UX designer does not have empathy, he is not able to know the user. Empathy means seeing and feeling and experiencing the world from another’s eyes. Empathy is more than just putting yourself in the shoes of the user.

Quantitative and qualitative research and different methods for each of them are therefore important in the product design process, which helps the design team to better understand the user’s needs and problems. If the product designer cannot see and understand the issues as the user sees and understands the issues; the result of any investigation will not be useful for him. So, empathizing with the user (human) is what makes the designer understand and apply the results of User Research.

Empathic design in UI/UX design can be defined as follows:

Empathy in design is simply taking the time to carry out user research, and absorbing it into your thinking to guide your decision-making processes.

The difference between Empathy and Sympathy

Before I explain more about empathic design, the concept of empathy should be clarified. Because the designer should not confuse empathizing and understanding the user with sympathy. The product designer must be fully aware of the difference between those two feelings. According to one of the most reliable authorities in the field of user experience design

The majority of UX professionals practice sympathy instead of empathy for their users.

Sympathizing with the user means that the designer is upset that the user is experiencing a difficult situation and problem. To make the matter clearer, let’s go back to the example mentioned in the introduction. A single mother who has 3 children and has to work at least 10 hours a day, how does she find time to exercise? How should an app be designed to convince that mother to download it? The product design team may feel sorry for that mother and her difficult life.

But being upset doesn’t help the product design team to know that mother and understand the hardships of her life. If the UI/UX designer empathizes with that mother, he tries to understand what a day in the life of that mother looks like. What does he do How much time can he spend on himself? What should change in his life so that he can take time for himself? If he gets a chance to devote time to himself, how many minutes or hours? Design that understands empathy seeks to find answers to those questions. He tries to experience that mother’s life as much as he can.

Benefits of empathetic design in product design

What is the benefit of empathizing with the user? Why should a UI/UX designer take the time to understand another person’s world? How does empathy enable better product design?

  • Empathic design helps the product designer to move away from his preconceptions and prejudices. The biggest danger in digital product design is that the user interface and user experience designer thinks that everyone thinks like him, everyone interacts with a site like him, and everyone finds a solution to a problem like him.
  • Empathic design helps the UI/UX designer to see and accept what is, not what the user wants to see and hear, and not what the user tells and shows him. Humans are not always aware of all their feelings and behaviors. So, even when they are asked about their needs and problems, they may not give complete and correct answers. Empathizing with the user is what makes the designer understand his fears, hopes, motivations, desires, and real-life atmosphere.
  • When the designer takes the time to understand and understand the world of the user, he not only finds out his real needs and real problems that the product is supposed to solve; but He also finds out the needs and problems that the user is not aware of. Empathizing with the user, in addition to revealing his obvious and hidden needs, shows his future needs to the designer.
  • The two basic principles in product design are that the product should exceed the user’s expectations and should not create a new problem for him. Empathetic design helps the designer design a product in which those two principles are fully respected.
  • When a product is designed empathetically, it means that it is something that the user, consciously or unconsciously, really wants and lacks in their lives. So, he buys it and uses it.

Empathic design process

The first step in design thinking is to empathize with the user. It is not enough that the UI/UX designer knows the concept of empathy and develops the ability to empathize with users. Even this is not enough that all UX research is based on empathy with the user. Empathic design is a part of design thinking and without it, the product design team cannot start its work properly. How to do the first stage of design thinking? What is the Empathic Design Process?

The first stage of design thinking, empathizing with the user, is divided into 3 parts:

1. Viewing and collecting information

Product design begins by observing users at work or in their lives. That is, the product design team, which has different specialties, should spend time and observe the life and behavior of the target group for a while, according to the type of product they want to design. For example, the design team of that application should spend several days entirely with working mothers.

The product design team may have to consider the behavior of other groups besides the target group. For example, if the product design team wants to design an educational platform for students; In addition to observing the interaction of students with educational platforms and their challenges, they should also see the interaction and behavior of teachers with that platform.

Of course, the UI/UX designer and team shouldn’t just observe. They should ask the users while observing, carefully monitor their reactions and behaviors and collect as much information as possible. For example, if the designer realizes that a student is having trouble finding something on the site and the menus don’t help him, he should ask the student how he would prefer the topics to be organized in the menus.

2. Finding problems and solutions

When the observation is complete and the team has collected the necessary information, it is time to find all the needs and problems of the product user. Collected information and observations should be empathetically reviewed and analyzed to arrive at real problems and needs. When the challenges of the user are identified based on the cooperation and consensus of all team members, the best solutions should also be found with the cooperation and consensus of everyone. The goal of the product design team should be to make the user’s life easier for him.

For example, after observing the lives of working mothers, the application design team may conclude that the main problem is that many working mothers forget to take time for their physical and mental health. Someone should remind them that they cannot take care of their children properly when they are physically and mentally tired. Someone should tell them that even 15 minutes of meditation or yoga or stretching a day will help them relax their mind and body. Therefore, the application that is designed, first of all, must convince the working mother to spend at least 15 minutes a day relaxing her body and soul.

3. Testing solutions

Once the product design team finds solutions to real-life user challenges, they need to evaluate them individually. Designers must make sure that the solutions are really useful for the user. The solutions must also be selected sympathetically. At this stage, the team should again observe the users as they interact with the product (solutions) to ensure that the chosen solution is suitable and effective for the user and his life. Ultimately, the team may conclude that the solution is not good enough. As a result, empathic design has to start again, from the first stage.

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