Empathy in product design blog post man with beard looking at journey map with Post-it notes

The Importance of Empathy in Digital Product Design

In today’s tech-first world, businesses are constantly competing for the attention of prospective customers, whether individual consumers or businesses. With so many choices available across many industry segments, it’s more important than ever to offer digital products that are user-friendly and engaging. This is where empathy in design comes in.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. In the context of digital product design, empathy means putting yourself in the shoes of your users and understanding (and building in support of) their needs, wants, and motivations.

There are a variety of benefits to incorporating empathy into the product design process. For one, it can help you create software your customers enjoy (or at least don’t mind) using. When you understand your users’ priorities and pains, you are better able to build products they’ll find intuitive… easy to understand and navigate. This supports a positive user experience, which in turn supports customer acquisition, satisfaction, and retention.

Empathy can also help you create products that are more engaging. When you understand what your users care about (their passions and motivations), you can design products that resonate with them on an emotional level. This can make your products more memorable and help you stand out from the competition.
Finally, empathy can help you develop products that are more inclusive and accessible. (Great article here on why accessibility matters). In addition to being the right thing to do, this can help you build a more positive brand reputation and attract new customers.

Ways to Incorporate Empathy Into the Product Design Process

There are a variety of ways to bring empathy into the digital product design process, such as:

Conduct user research. User research involves interviewing or surveying potential users with the goal of understanding their needs, expectations, and challenges. 

Create user stories. User stories describe the various user types; what each user type wants / needs from your product; and why. User stories are often recorded on Post-it notes or index cards, and can be written by various stakeholders, such as organizational leaders, managers and development team members.

Develop a user journey map. A user journey map is a visualization of the process a person (user) goes through in order to accomplish a goal – from the user’s perspective. While such maps come in all shapes and sizes, they all have the following elements in common:

  1. Actor
  2. Scenario + Expectations
  3. Journey phases
  4. Actions, mindsets, and emotions
  5. Opportunities

Look to Design Thinking. At Revelry, our product managers and designers use Design Thinking, a human-centered approach to problem-solving that puts the user at the center of the product design process. Design Thinking involves understanding the user’s needs, brainstorming solutions, and prototyping and testing those solutions. (Bonus! All of the exercises above are a part of the Design Thinking process).

Whether your business needs a B2B, B2C, or B2B2C digital product, empathy in its design can be an important differentiator. By keeping your end-users front and center from the very beginning, you’ll be positioned to deliver a solution that helps your business compete, scale, and succeed.

Want to chat about product design best practices or your specific product design needs?  Connect with a member of our team. We love this stuff!

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