Why empathy is the most important pillar in the UX Design process

If the objective is to create or redesign a product, the first thing to do is to research and observe, as it is essential to obtain as much information as possible. There are different methods that can be used to establish a logical solution to every specific situation; Design Thinking is one of them.

Design Thinking is a tool that has existed for a while now. One of its main characteristics is the profoundly human focus given to the encountered problems. It uses the intuition to interpret what is observed and consequently, develop emotionally significant ideas. It aligns the human needs with what is technologically feasible, through a non linear iterative methodology, similar to the one used by designers.

The importance here, it 's not really the technique, but the application, as it positions the user in the center of the problem and it evaluates the necessities that it has.

There are many Design Thinking models but they all have the same foundation: empathy. It is the need to define and understand who our user is. It is fundamental to observe him, get to know him deeply, know how he feels, thinks and see’s. If as designers we leave out this step, it is possible that we end up contemplating a solution for a wrong issue, thus failing to solve the real one.  

Interviews, surveys, tours, shadowing (following the user to observe his daily life), are a few of the tools that aid into getting to know our users. There are other more elaborated techniques that are used to get an insight without the need to ask the user directly:

  1. Immersion: It consists of imagining that we are using a product or service, and taking notes of our rational and emotional experience.
  2. Netnography: research method based on ethnography, to understand social interactions within the contemporary digital communications context.
  3. Secondary research or photobook: it is carried out by having different sources such as books, case studies, similar projects or magazines.
  4. Card sorting: placing a deck of cards with an image or word and asking the user to sort them out by order of importance.
  5. User persona and empathy maps: create a fictional user that is as similar to the real one as possible, and stating its fears, frustrations, desires, needs, emotions, etc.
  6. Customer journey map: map each moment that the user will have to go through while using the product or service, and highlight the key ones and the pain points.
  7. The 5 “whys”: this method is used to reach the nucleus of the users beliefs and motivations. It consists of constantly asking why after every given answer.

These are just a few examples of the different techniques used to get to know the user better in order to find new solutions and answers to difficult problems. There are many tools that can work, it is just a matter of knowing which is the best one for every specific scenario.