Empowering with empathy

photo by:  Liane Metzler

photo by: Liane Metzler

Recently at my workplace, we were in a tech town hall and our CEO was giving us a few tips on how to make the product better, functional and take it to the next stage. One of the sentences he used was “have empathy for your user”. For user experience designers it is a mantra to abide by; but do we really understand the meaning of empathy and how to put it to use?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. 

What this means in simple layman terms is that put yourself in the other's shoe and you will be able to see the varied feelings, emotions that he or she may be going through and make life easier for them.

Let's start with the basic one "Empathy for your users". All good products that have been built till date have been successful only because they solve some problem a user faces, make him feel intelligent or boost their public image. Even though they tend to solve different problems they all have one thing in common. They make the products simple and intuitive. They feel for the user and at each step make sure the user can perform the task easily and move on to the next intended task. These products neither provide information overload just because they have the data but place data in a manner where the user can choose what he or she wants to see and when.

Empathy for your users surely does not mean you feel sorry for the user or create experiences for the "dumb user". It means to empower the user in a manner wherein he or she can perform a task with ease without actually feeling "oh! I must be dumb to not figure this out". Put yourself in the shoe of your user and question every feature added to the product and if need be (and if you can convince your management :P) strip your feature list to one action a user needs to do at one time or one most important data point he should be aware of from your tool. In most companies, this will not happen but try it might take your product to the next level.

Then there is the other Empathy - The one you have for your peers. Most of us today are living in a world where information is readily available to all. All of us have access to knowledge way outside of out specialization and in the "startup world" we are meant to be "unicorns" and "super stars". It has been my observation about myself and others that we know things, we read blogs and we have access to material, and so we think we know it all. Let's break that bubble here. Each person in every organization is hired to perform a particular task. You know what you are good at and don't get me wrong, it is excellent to have knowledge of other arenas but don't boast you know it all as maybe by doing this you are closing down all communication channels. Treat your peers with utmost respect, feel for their work and help them as and when you see the need and you have the time. Don't be arrogant or feel entitled that they have to answer to you. Reach out and empower them to learn, to see new things, new dimensions. 

Empathy has taught me to be a better human being. Try it maybe it will do you some good!


The story starts a week back when my husband asked me if I wanted to join him for a blogging event. I casually agreed to attend it. A day before he reminded me and I was still in two minds whether I should attend the event or skip it to catch up on my weekly sleep. I was inclined to the later.

The day of the event: 7:30 am my husband's alarm rings and I am still thinking. Then something happened in my brain. I decided on the spur of the moment that I should go even though I don’t know the speakers, the agenda etc. I will just get to LEARN SOMETHING or it might inspire me to blog. Within no time we were on our way.

I reached there and got to know it was WIN15 (#WIN15) by Blogadda.
Like any big event, there were a lot of people none of whom I knew or had heard off.

The event kicked off and the host Sidharth Kannan introduced Lakshmi Pratury. I was still wondering if I was going to get bored. That's when I took out my Moleskine and just started with the key work of the event ‘BLOG’.
And then it all just flowed :)

Here are some of the sketches

Keynote by Lakshmi Pratury

Ask some questions ppl! — as said by the host


7 Pointers for bloggers by Sruthijith


Travel blogging by Ajay Jain



Brands and Digitial Media by Ashok Lalla

This was a brilliant experience for me :) It was fun to see the power of visualized notes!

Hopefully, this will culminate into something more. Fingers crossed.

Design - a playground

What is Design?

Design is an enabler that allows users to interact with an interface seamlessly and effortlessly.

The most seamless and effortless interactions I have seen are those on playgrounds. Children are excited when allowed to run free, try out new slides and swings, fall and learn. They learn by watching other kids climb and try the slide especially if their older brother or sister are effortlessly using a slide or swing.
There are some simple analogies that I would like to point out between the playground and user experience design of an interface.

For the sake of explaining the analogy further I will be comparing

  • The Parent to The designer.

  • The Playground to Your Website design.

  • The Child to The User.

When a child comes to a playground he is usually accompanied by a parent.
So basically the designer (Parent) is hand holding the user (child) on his website(playground)

Parents with their children — photograph by me

Parents with their children — photograph by me

The Playground/ Design
Children love to come to the playground. Ever wondered why?
Its that time of the day when they are out in the open, in a garden where there is more space, freedom and no four plaster walls of their schools or homes. Also their parents/guardians are in a jovial mood themselves.

As a designer you need to make sure your designs are open, offer freedom of use and are a break from the mundane and gazillion other designs in the world.

Types of parents/ designers
A free parent lets his child run freely while browsing his/her phone. not bothering if the child is swinging to high or running too fast. But then there is a hue and cry when the child falls down. Scolding the child for hurting himself/ herself and then deciding that the child is not fit to play unmonitored.

An obsessive parent is one who is standing right next to the slide with his hand forward almost like blocking the kids fictionary fall. even if the kid slightly hits a bump the parent will fuss over the kid and be even more cautious

An Ideal parent is one who is vigilant of his/ her child is playing. Monitoring the child’s movements without interference but there when the child is in need or telling the child to have a go at the slide again after the fall. motivating the kid to try out new stuff and providing valuable information when needed and staying out of the picture when necessary.

The Child/ User
A child come to the playground all excited, ready to explore and happy. The weather is beautiful the energy levels are high. A good playground can enable the child to perfectly channelize all this energy into slides, swings, jungle gym and so on. A bad playground will ensure a queue(wait time)to access the elements of the playground and thus killing the enthusiasm of the kid.

Making your website simple and accessible from various points makes the user happy.
If incase the user loses his/her way on your design make sure there are ample ways of getting back to where he or she started from. Have a Forgiving Design
Your design elements should ensure progress in activity and no roadblocks.

Designs should be like vast playgrounds where a user (child) can learn on their own enabled by the slides (elements of your design).
We as designers should allow users to play around and have fun with our designs.