This site is under construction

back to journal

Empathy in UX Design Comprehensive Guide for New Designers

Written By Ahmed Shahid | Last Modified On April 22, 2024

Empathy is key to great design. Your design depends on how well you understand and empathize with your users. Will it be easy to use and solve the user’s problem effectively? Or will it fail because you didn’t understand your users?

Design Thinking is essential for designers. Developing an empathy map template requires putting yourself in the shoes of your users as much as possible so that you can feel their frustrations and understand them on a personal level and utilize that understanding to inform good design choices.

We will explore every aspect of empathy in this article. Why does it matter so much? What role does it play in Design Thinking, and how can you develop your empathy to make you a better designer?

What Is Empathy in UX Design?

To empathize is “to comprehend, be aware of, be sensitive to, and experience directly the emotions, ideas, and perspective of someone else without having those sentiments, ideas, and experiences completely articulated in an absolutely explicit manner.”

To have empathy is to be able to put yourself in another person’s shoes and experience what they are experiencing. Being empathetic involves learning to identify with and respond to the feelings of others around you. It connects two people.

With each passing day, we see how crucial it is to incorporate empathy into the design process. It can be classified as a skill. The encouraging thing is that it is a skill that can be improved.

Sometimes the only thing that gets us to do anything in a social situation is feeling compassion for the other person. If we can relate to another person’s pain, we will feel obligated to assist.

Also read: How to Become a UI/UX Designer?

What Is Empathic Design?

When designing with empathy, you focus on what the end user wants instead of what the average user would want. Empathize aims to uncover latent user requirements and behaviors. As a designer, you must differentiate between what people would say and what they do. Consumers could be unaware of habits or needs, so designers must study them.

User demographics, such as age or region, are less relevant to researchers or designers practicing empathy. Instead, it centers on their feelings about a product and what drives them in specific contexts. What causes their behavior? Why don’t they do that? Why do people click here on a screen or page? Discovering such information during the empathy stage is crucial for developing user experiences that meet the needs of your target demographic.

Why Is Empathy in UX Design Important?

In order to choose the best course of action, designers need to cultivate empathy for the people using their products. Do you feel frustrated when using this website because of its design? User feedback is crucial when developing products and interfaces. What feelings do you think the user experiences as they navigate this app?

Through the development of empathy in UX design, product designers are able to create items that not only pleasure customers but also make their lives simpler. Without this understanding of the user’s perspective, the design process will lack the user-centricity that is often the deciding factor in a product’s success or failure.

Also read: Design Consistency Guide: Best Practices for UI and UX

Empathy in the Design Thinking Process

As the first step in the Design Thinking process, the empathy map is the foundation upon which any human-centered design is built. The designer learns the user’s requirements, wants, and goals throughout the empathy phase. Observing and connecting with individuals to understand them psychologically and emotionally.

Empathizing involves setting aside assumptions. It’s human tendency to expect people would think and feel like you, but this isn’t always the case. First, suspend your worldview to see things through your users’ eyes. With Design Thinking and user-centered design, it’s time to go past assumptions and into hard qualitative research data about the end user.

How to Develop 8 Empathic Design Skills?

Here is a list of 8 skills that will help you build empathy in UX design.

1- Assume the Perspective of a Newbie (Don’t Judge!)

Setting aside preconceptions is crucial for creating empathy. As humans, we all have beliefs, experiences, and misconceptions that help us understand the world. These can inhibit empathy. When listening to others, suspend your judgments and assumptions. Assume a “blank” attitude, free of prior notions and assumptions. When you listen to someone carefully, you may learn a lot about their personality from what they say.

2- Conduct Qualitative Research

User research is the starting point for every UX practice of empathy. We must forget our preconceived notions and put our pride aside to do proper research. We can learn more about users’ actions, thoughts, and worries by employing qualitative techniques like user interviews, mind maps, and diaries.

Ask open-ended inquiries. Users typically disclose startling mental models, problem-solving tactics, hopes, and concerns when asked to describe something. E.g.:

How do you find joy in life? instead of asking “Are you happy?

Which would help you the most? Please share your shortcomings with me.

Maintain a state of empathy while you delve into your investigation. Remember that you can never tell what someone is going through or what can bring up a painful memory for them.

3- Employ Empathy in Your Daily Lives

Making empathy a regular component of your routine is like exercising your empathy muscle; it will strengthen with time. Be aware of your surroundings and try to put yourself in the shoes of people you encounter. The more you can put yourself in the shoes of others in the real world, the simpler it will be for you to do the same while designing for others.

4- Create an Empathy Map

Empathy maps capture users’ emotions, hopes, and anxieties and organize user knowledge. An empathy map may pinpoint user research needs and fill in the blanks in your existing body of knowledge.

An empathy map may operate as a source of information throughout a project, protecting it from bias or erroneous assumptions. Even though empathy is a difficult talent to master, empathy maps make it easier for everyone to be on the same page by providing a common visual reference point.

5- Recruit a Diverse User Base

Include accessibility considerations in your study strategy. Involving real customers in the development process helps you to put your theories to the test and discover areas for enhancement. Reach out to reputable organizations or local training institutions to assist you in recruiting individuals who have impairments.

6- Observe the Body Language

It is possible to infer a great deal about a person’s mental state only based on their body language, including their posture, the position of their arms, and even the slightest facial expressions. Learn to analyze and make sense of these physical signals as part of your mission to become a designer with a greater capacity for empathy.

7- Diversify Your Workforce

Even if the phrase “you are not the user” has become a bit of a cliche, it reflects a fundamental aspect of human nature: the tendency to attribute motives and actions to others based on our own. If your workforce is male, under 30, and tech-savvy, your designs will favor that user is demographic.

Recruit a diverse team. This won’t ensure user empathy, but it’s a start. Diversity must encompass experiences, abilities, and attitudes developed during an employee’s lifetime, called ‘acquired diversity.’ 

8- Design Guidelines Should Include Empathy

To foster empathy within this diverse group, draft some ground rules. 

If you’ve been a part of your team for some time, you could have a pretty clear sense of the many kinds of incorrect assumptions that it tends to make. Create standards to monitor your team’s negative empathy behaviors. Consider implementing a rule to rectify your team’s tendency not to change designs that don’t work for specific users. The rule is Each design must be evaluated with a varied user sample that matches your target demographics.

Methods for Fostering Empathy

During the empathize phase of Design Thinking, you’ll watch and interact with users. There are several ways to gain user empathy. Here are some popular ways to empathize:

Observation and Absorption

Observing users in their natural surroundings or a given setting is also helpful. Taking photos or videos of your consumers helps you find requirements, motives, and issues they can’t describe.

Observing your consumers is easy. One approach is to have them in the office so you can watch them use the product or deal with the issue you’re attempting to solve. You might film or record them using a website. You might also suggest that they keep a photo or video diary over a set period or while they do their daily routines. Your users won’t realize they’re being observed and may act more organically.

Neverending Curiosity

It’s essential to think about the who, what, and why behind your users’ actions during the empathize phase. What-how-why helps you transform (assumption-free) observations into user motivations. Make three columns on your page to organize your analysis as follows.

  • What?

In this context, “what happened” refers to the specifics of the situation; for instance, “the user performed the following activities” when providing payment information on an online store.

  • How? 

Examine how the user performed these actions. Their expressions? Did they work hard? How did they seem?

  • Why? 

Guess the user’s intentions and feelings as they accomplish these activities.

The more you think about your consumers and what can motivate them to do a given action, the more you will be able to relate to them and create accordingly.

Interviews for Empathy

Conducting user interviews promote empathy. Compelling empathy interviews are open conversations; don’t use a fixed list of questions. Remember, the purpose is to gain understanding, not to verify or refute a predetermined opinion.

Be present and attentive during an empathy interview. Stop losing focus by writing things down; use a recorder or designate someone to take notes on your behalf.

Extreme Users

Extreme consumers help designers establish empathy and comprehend user problems. Extreme users help reframe the problem, says UX designer Jack Strachan. “Extreme users have increased requirements. To get what they want or need, they require less of something. Unlike normal users, they typically discover workarounds.”

Extreme users can assist you in finding problems and want normal users may not voice. By empathizing with your target users’ “averages” and “extremes,” you may create new solutions.

Empathy Maps

In addition to helping you learn about your users, empathy maps are helpful in communicating that information within your organization. Nielsen Norman Group defines an empathy map as a collaborative display of user knowledge. It exposes user information to: 

  1. foster agreement on what those users need, and 
  2. inform choice.

Empathy mapping involves four quadrants:

  • Says: 

Contains user quotations from an empathy interview.

  • Thinks: 

Takes into account the user’s mental processes and any information they might not wish to divulge. For instance, “Am I foolish for not knowing how to use this website?”

  • Does: 

Examine the user’s concrete behavior, such as reloading a page, pressing a button, or making a series of choices before completing a purchase.

  • Feels: 

Considers the user’s feelings. For instance, “Frustrated: Can’t locate what they seek on the page.”

What Follows Empathy?

To build excellent user experiences, you must first comprehend their desires, requirements, frustrations, and pain spots. Start any design endeavor with empathy.

After empathizing with people, you’ll develop your issue statement. After that, we’ll go into the brainstorming, prototype, and testing phases. Design Thinking isn’t linear. Therefore, you’ll need to return to earlier phases to discover the correct answer.


The quality of the empathy map is critical in UX design. As UX specialists, we consider it to be our most valuable asset since it allows us to enter the brains of our users. Empathy map enables us to create with intention, to add focus and clarity, to advocate for our users, and to challenge our presumptions.

Empathizing makes design problems easier and shows real-world user scenarios.

An excellent result is guaranteed when the designer takes into account the user’s anticipated thoughts, actions, emotions, and words when creating the product.

Read this Successful Guide On Outsourcing Software Development


What Is Empathy in the Design Process?

Empathy is the best way of thinking about design because it can communicate the feelings we are feeling. Empathy allows us to get into others’ shoes and connect to their feelings about their problems and situations.

How Do You Build Empathy With UX?

We can research, look at things, ask questions, and speculate. And when we try to comprehend people on their level, we can better sympathize with them.