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Insights through empathy

WHAT is the empathy mode?

Empathy is the foundation of a human-centred design process.  To empathise, we:

  1. Observe –  View users and their behaviour in the context of their lives.
  2. Engage – Interact with and interview users.
  3. Immerse – Experience what your user experiences.

WHY empathise?

To design relevant solutions for your users, you must build empathy for who they are and what is important to them.

Watching what people do and how they interact with their environment gives you clues about what they think and feel.  You can learn about what they need and capture the physical manifestations of their experiences, such as what they do and say.  It will allow you to interpret the intangible meaning of those experiences to uncover insights.  These insights will lead you to the innovative solutions (Napstart use tools such as Empathy mapping; Interviews for empathyBrain-writing, and Affinity clustering to help collect these insights).

The best solutions come out of the best insights into human behaviour.  But learning to recognise those insights is harder than you might think.  Why? Because our minds automatically filter out a lot of information in ways we aren’t even aware.  We need to learn to see things “with a fresh set of eyes” – tools for empathy, along with a human-centred mindset, is what gives us those new eyes.

Engaging with people personally reveals a tremendous amount about the way they think and the values they hold.  Sometimes these thoughts and values are not apparent to the people who hold them.  The stories that people tell and the things that people say they do – even if they are different from what they do – are reliable indicators of their deeply held beliefs about the way the world is. We can, therefore, state that good designs build on solid understandings of these kinds of beliefs and values.

Therefore, to engage you need to…

  1. Uncover needs that people have, whether they are aware of them, or not.
  2. Guide innovation efforts.
  3. Identify the right users to design for.
  4. Discover the emotions that guide these behaviours.

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