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Experience-backed insights about empathy-driven UX for those who care about what people feel when interacting with their products.

“People ignore design that ignores people.”

— Frank Chimero, Designer

When we aim to create a remarkable product, we care about every detail and emotion we experience when interacting with it even at the initial phases of development. Often driven by feelings and emotions, we should also pay particular attention to them in UX design. Your user is not a substance or something abstract but somebody who feels, interacts, and experiences. 

Here we consider the essentials of empathy-driven user experience design that may help you create better mobile apps, websites, and other digital products. Are you ready for a more “human” and personal interaction with your users? If yes, keep on reading.

What Is Empathy-Driven Design?

The main tenet of design thinking is empathy for the people you’re trying to design for. Leadership is exactly the same thing – building empathy for the people that you’re entrusted to help.

– David Kelley, Founder of IDEO

Illustration by Sofy Dubinska

Empathy-driven design implies paying particular attention not only to the product’s usability but also to the user’s feelings that might arise during the interaction with a product. 

Just recall what you felt first when switched on your newly purchased Apple device? Excitement, delight, satisfaction? At least, these were my emotions toward it. The ability to feel them each time I use Apple became a significant reason to choose it among other brands. Sleek surface, beautiful design, intuitive navigation, and innovation met my personal requirements to a mobile device. It is just an example of how an empathy-driven UX design can influence the customer’s purchasing decision. 

Your users perceive digital products similarly. They expect to experience nearly the same emotions when using mobile apps, web applications, or websites. Try to evoke these feelings by eliminating infelicities in navigation, caring about aesthetics, testing your UX countless number of times, and adding a pinch of humor and innovation with vivid animation in your mobile app or website. There are also many use cases of how illustration can improve your UX design.

How Empathy-Driven Design Intersects with a User-Oriented Approach

Animation by BestServedBold

Empathy-driven design is closely related to a user-oriented approach. The main idea of a user-oriented approach is that you shouldn’t be indifferent to people who use your products. To create a product that addresses customer needs, you should co-experience everything they do in their everyday lives. What problems do they encounter during the day? During the week? Or in some particular situations? You should investigate them and create a product that solves them.

Step into your customer’s shoes and empathize with your users. Having a realistic image of your target user and understanding their lives inside and out is can help you build a remarkable product.

How to Be a More Empathic UX Designer

A great product designer is a passionate human-nature researcher. It’s a person who is eager to understand all the weaknesses and strengths of a target audience since all of us have them. As a matter of fact, you should accept your imperfections to be able to investigate those of your customers. 

“I would like to do that and perform anything else simultaneously, but it’s impossible for my mind and body – that’s my imperfection. So, I need to find the solution (a product) that would help smooth out my imperfections.” 

Every product’s mission is to help people move forward to utopic lives saturated with comfort, excitement, and convenience in everything they do. It’s how you can help them step closer to personal perfection. So, ask yourself how imperfect you are. What does limit yourself personally? Then, ask the same question about your customers. Your product should help them go beyond their limits and feel more freedom in what they experience in their everyday lives.

From designing body prostheses and home appliances to creating mobile and web experiences – try to be helpful and empower people to get a more enjoyable and comprehensive experience. That’s where genuine empathy is hidden.

UX design for a medical eCommerce website selling body prostheses by Eugene Paryhin for Fireart Studio

Principles of the Empathy-Driven Mobile and Web User Experience

Human-oriented approach

“Human-centered design is a philosophy, not a precise set of methods, but one that assumes that innovation should start by getting close to users and observing their activities.– Donald A. Norman, Co-founder of Nielsen Norman Group

When it goes about a human-oriented approach, it also goes about user testing. Testing. And testing once again. It’s recommended to conduct user testing at each step of the product development journey, from the prototype to a full-fledged product. User testing at the beginning of the development process will save much more time and effort at all the next phases. It allows you to step into the user’s shoes each time you use a product.

“The product is made not only by people but also by a dynamic improvement process. The product is like a living organism, it needs your care and commitment. Designers and developers should provide micro-transformations and improvements at different product development stages. They must continually check whether each interaction is well-done and all features function properly.” – from the interview “How to Grow a Business and a Digital Product” with Dima Venglinski, Founder and CEO of Fireart Studio

Balance of cognitive load

When testing a product, pay particular attention to cognitive load. It is the ability of the mental processing power needed to use a product. If we process more information than usual, it may cause the user’s psychological discomfort and distract from the end-goal of interaction with a product. It’s called cognitive overload. 

Animation by Aslan Almukhambetov

When it occurs, it means that the product performance and usability suffer and require improvement. It’s usually triggered by factors such as a cluttered UI design, inconvenient navigation, too many distracting details, too much text, and an untraditional menu that doesn’t correspond to the user’s behavior patterns.


The timeless design is the design that exists beyond trends, times, and tastes. By caring about the product’s timelessness, we also care about its versatility. A timeless product suits different people, cultures, and even times. This approach also implies that a product can evoke almost the same emotions today, tomorrow, or in the future. Mostly, timeless products are created with respect to the empathy-driven UX design and take the user’s feelings into account. They are usually unobtrusive, minimalist, convenient, innovative, and long-lasting.

Illustration by Jack Harvatt

Simplicity & Intuitiveness

Keep it simple and intuitive, and it’ll good for everyone. Being unoriginal is undesired but may be forgiven by users. However, being inconvenient and complicated usually means that you may lose your audience at all. Try to nail a design that makes a product understandable and helpful. The designer’s primary mission is to design a product that amazes with its beautiful innovation and freshness but doesn’t make the user think of the next step when using it. It’s should be simple in terms of usability.

3 Steps to Create an Empathy-Driven UX Design

Animation by VAGO

Create a target user persona

A target user persona is an image of an ideal person who is intended to use your product. Before you start creating a product, you should investigate your target audience. Who are people you’re designing for? Who are they by professions, family status, age, gender, and nationality? You must understand their daily needs and problems. Explore their behavior patterns. With qualitative and quantitative data about your target audience, you have more chances to create a product that matches the user’s reality.

User problem research 

The next step is discovering user problems. Be sure you have found the core problem, not its symptoms. The core problem may cause plenty of others. By eliminating the root problem, you also mitigate the risks of new, symptomatic problems. Why is problem research so important? Because a successful product is the one that solves the right user problems. 

Trying to sell a product that solves unreal or irrelevant user problems feels as complicated and senseless as fighting with your own shadow.

Competitor research

Before making your own mistakes during the creation process, you may learn a lot from your competitors who have already launched their products and tested them with your target audience. It helps you find out what your target users like and hate. You can check product reviews and investigate what people say about this product on social media. 

Social networks are very powerful tools of distribution of the information and collecting customer feedback about different products and brands. It will enable you to predict and avoid many UX problems before the product launch and spend less time and effort on user testing.

Let’s Humanize Technology

Illustration by Lily for Fireart Studio

Empathy-driven means humanized. The future is fastly rushing to us, bringing even more innovations and more natural human-machine interaction. By caring about the empathy-driven UX design of digital products today, we contribute to an amazing process of creating the humanized technology of the future. I hope that this brief overview of the essentials of the empathy-driven UX design has inspired you to create a design that empowers people and makes their lives easier and more enjoyable.