“Empathizing allows designers to understand users better. Empathizing helps designers to look deeper into situations in a way that helps them to think and create solutions for problems.”


Practicing empathy when doing user experience work has to begin with user research. We have to set aside ego and assumptions and immerse ourselves in research allowing the results to drive the next steps or changes.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative

The quantitive method is to collect objective measurements that are unbiased by the researcher’s hypotheses, presence, and personality that normally comes in the form of an online survey where questions can be asked and a numerical value can be determined from the answers. These studies are normally done with a lot of people to try and get a very broad spectrum of users to give results.

This will work very well when doing surveys on:

  • How many clothing items do you buy a month?
  • How much do you normally spend on a dress?
  • Where do you normally shop for clothing?

These questions do tell you something about the users and are great to get a general feel for things when just wanting data as a result.

The qualitative method of doing research focuses on the user’s behaviors and so you get a much better insight behind the users thinking. These studies are normally done with a much smaller focus group and allow the following questions to be asked:

  • Why do you shop at fashion store A?
  • How did you find your last shopping experience there?
  • When do you normally do your shopping?
  • Who do you shop for?
  • What device do you use most when shopping?
  • Do you feel the brand represents your age demographic well?

The qualitative results give you a clear understanding of your users and allow you to get a much better understanding of them but more importantly, allows you to empathize with them much easier going forward.

Recruit Diverse Users

Recruiting diverse users is something that many companies get wrong. If you wanting to test something and your key demographic is 30 to 40-year-old women with children it will be a very narrow test. It also does not give your product any scope of wider population engagement and will fail. 

If Uber only focused on 18 to 24-year-old females that are single and high earning that are living in London, the app would have looked much different and so we have to remember that because the people that use the application might predominantly be of a set age and gender that we should not focus on this and that having a diverse view will work in the long run to future proof a product.

Watch Research Sessions and See Real Users

Nothing informs you more than seeing real people interact with your product. We all can think about what a user can do and so we think we know the user’s intent and behavior because we use it in a specific way and that would mean that all users use a product in the same way.

The problem with the assumption is just that. We assume to know but don’t really know at all. Allowing users to show you how they use a product will really highlight where there are issues and improvements to be made. Something might confuse them and allowing your team to view this first hand will allow your team to think of solutions to prevent this in the future.

This is very clear when testing different age groups and demographics. Having a very clean and clear design might work for a younger generation but if your product is trying to target an older generation and they get confused about using your product you have missed the goal of the product itself and is a clear sign if a product will succeed or fail.

Videos Evidence When Presenting to Stakeholders

Stakeholders in any product will naturally fight for their view in any feedback that is generated and presented and so having actual video evidence of issues are crucial to any big decisions to be made. You can’t argue with facts of seeing someone struggle with a product even if every stakeholder believes otherwise.

Empathy Map

“Visualizing user attitudes and behaviors in an empathy map helps UX teams align on a deep understanding of end-users. The mapping process also reveals any holes in existing user data.”


Traditional empathy maps are split into 4 quadrants (SaysThinksDoes, and Feels), with the user or persona in the middle. You can discover gaps in our research and where you have to focus on while gaining a great insight into user needs that the user themselves may not even be aware of.


When speaking to the user what are they saying that you can use to gather more insight into them but also the product?

  • “I love all Superdry clothing and would never switch.”
  • “I want reliability when purchasing new clothes”
  • “I don’t understand what to do next?”


Sometimes people will tell you what they thinking and it’s important we try and capture this information. Thinking feedback can be some of the more important feedbacks we get as it really tells you about the person and what matters to the user. 

  • “Why can’t I add this product to my basket?”
  • “I feel a little silly not knowing how to move forward”


What does the user do when using the product? Do they have multiple things going on at the same time? What is their behavior while using the product? What actions does the user maybe do that needs to be looked into that could be causing the user frustration?

  • Refreshes page several times.
  • Shops around to compare prices.
  • looks at the website and then the application for different information


The emotional state of the user is also very important. 

  • Impatient: pages load too slowly
  • Confused: too many contradictory prices
  • Worried: they are doing something wrong

Diverse Team

Just like diverse users we also need to factor in diverse teams when doing user research. Is this job only there for the researchers and designers? I think the question we have to ask is, who will be responsible for the success or failure of a product? That’s everyone that works on it and has input into it and so at least 1 person from every team should really be included in the research. 

Each person brings a different perspective of the product and can make a change in their own way. Having a director there allows them to see first hand when users struggle and will help move things forward when changes are required. Developers will be thinking of solutions to users’ problems as soon as they see them and so will have a list of issues they need to work on when getting back to their workspace. 

Having a quick catch up after is very important to make notes and come up with some solutions while the information is fresh in their head and can really be the drivers to the next big or small changes in the roadmap.

User Personas

“Personas are fictional characters, which you create based upon your research in order to represent the different user types that might use your service, product, site, or brand in a similar way. Creating personas will help you to understand your users’ needs, experiences, behaviors, and goals.”

Rikke Dam – Interaction Design Foundation

User personas are when you take all of what you have learned with the steps above and put it into a clear and easily readable format. It allows people that where not present on the day of user research to get insight into the users they designing and developing products for.

Everybody knows a lot about the customers already, but, when knowledge and assumptions are not aligned, the lack of common ground causes issues in the decision making and personas can help with this.

The largest benefit of creating and having personas is a clear picture of specific user types that everybody can focus on and align around. Having specific user representations gets us away from designing for ourselves and disagreeing on what “the user” wants.

It allows everyone to tackle the problems from the user’s perspective and not their own and this is when the magic happens.

Broad-scope marketing personas

Quantitive research can give you a broad scope of the users you have on your database. 

  • Male or Female
  • Age
  • When they use your product
  • How often they use it
  • Do they have Children
  • Are they Married
  • Do they have a job

Targeted-scope UX personas

Qualitative Research can give you a more in-depth persona of the user and their behaviors and moods. 

  • the user uses the self-checkout
  • the user has very little time in the day
  • the user is a single parent
  • the user salary: £30k to £40k
  • the user gets frustrated easily

Allow your teams to have both of these sets of information allows them to design and develop products at much greater accuracy. It allows the company to also use the information to better understand marketing and sales approaches when selling products.

Designers and developers will naturally prefer the more focused personas and the stakeholders will prefer the more broad-scope personas. 

One thing we should never do is if you have multiple products doing different things is to use the personas you have collected for 1 product on another. The users will be different and so the personas and data will be different. 

User data on people using a mobile application will not work on a back-office software or website. These users though the same will be using products differently and so we need to cater to them differently.

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