Posts by Debbie


People who want to learn Axure often message us and ask what is the fastest and easiest way to book our live, remote training by the hour? This training is done webinar-style (screen sharing and dial-in) but is completely private. It’s one-on-one if there’s read more

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2016’s Weirdest Email


Posted By on Jan 3, 2017

I haven’t had time to blog as much as I’d hoped. So here’s one for now. The weirdest email I received in 2016. Please enjoy. Let me sum this one up for you. Elizabeth (full name and email address obviously not mentioned here) emails me to say that I (D read more

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Empathy has become a bit of a buzzword in UX lately. Many trusted experts are saying that various aspects of UX strategy and design require empathy.

What empathy isn’t.

A few months ago, I ended up in a Facebook battle with a stranger whose profile said he was a Senior UX Researcher at a company I won’t name. The topic was the poor experience I had with Kent State University’s online grad program (and let’s not go into that one again). He seemed determine to invalidate my opinion. He accused me of “sour grapes,” which made no sense since I am not jealous of a school experience I gleefully quit.

Late in the battle, he started a sentence with, “I empathize with you, but…” and proceeded to try to make it sound like my opinion and experience weren’t really what I was claiming they were.

First, you don’t empathize with me. If you truly felt empathy, you would understand why the experience I had produced the beliefs and reactions I had surrounding it.

Second, nobody has empathy but then disagrees or invalidates what the other person is saying, feeling, or experiencing. That’s not empathy.

What is empathy?

I have read a lot of definitions and have come up with my own. Very often, people say that empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes… and perhaps walking a mile. But that’s not really empathy. Weirdo Sr UX Researcher put himself in my shoes and decided my reactions to my own experience made no sense perhaps because it’s not how he would have reacted to the same situation. That’s also not sympathy.

Empathy is you putting yourself as me into my shoes.

If you put yourself into my shoes, you will think like you. React like you. Parse information like you.

If you imagine me in my shoes, you should then be thinking like I think. Reacting like I think. Assessing situations like I do. Which means you always validate that person. Whatever he or she thinks, believes, decides, opines… it makes sense… to him or her. You might do something different! Doesn’t matter. You are seeing the world through someone else’s eyes as him or her.

No outside judgment.

As soon as you are saying that someone’s reaction makes no sense, her feelings don’t match her situation, he’s making a mountain out of a molehill, her conclusions and assessments of her own situation are weird, those are your judgments. And they are not empathy.

Empathy requires that you remove your own judgments, ideas, preferences, and “what you would have done” in order to try to really imagine things through the eyes of the user.

I recently saw an example of what not to do when I saw a user story written by a product manager. Normally, user stories go something like, “As the user, I want to be able to [do something] because [user’s reason].” The product manager had written, “As the product manager, I want the user to be able to [do something] for [product manager’s reason].”

User centered design needs you to BE the user

You may not be your own company’s target audience. But to do your best UX work, you have to step out of your own shoes. You have to get away from the mirror and BE the personas or target audience. Don’t just “put yourself in their shoes;” that’s still you being you, just in some other scenario or bizarro world.

To truly know how a user would potentially react to something, to understand how a user might use something, and to know if you have designed the right solution, you have to be the user. Since we haven’t invented technology to put us in other people’s heads, we have to do this through empathy.

If you are not naturally very empathetic, start by thinking of it as acting. You ARE the persona. Get into character. Improv. What does that person’s life look like? How is he motivated and what influences him? What are her needs and goals? What improvisation can you do around what this persona would be like brought to life?

One of my fave UX researchers (not the above guy) would say the same thing often to people during user testing. “That makes sense,” he would say with comfort in his voice, no matter what the user just did or said. Because to the user, they were doing it right and he was validating that… and them. Good stuff.

And that other “Senior UX Researcher”? He wasn’t empathetic or sympathetic. He was just pathetic.

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Low Battery Warning


Posted By on Aug 23, 2016

How far in advance should a product warn you that the battery is low and in danger of dying? On many mobile phones, you will get “power saving mode” with around 20% battery life left. Depending on your phone, that might give it another hour of power.

My motorcycle Bluetooth helmet system gives an auditory low battery warning. It interrupts whatever I’m hearing to say, “Low battery.” Thanks! That helps.

Except it gives it one minute before the unit shuts down from being out of power. This makes me think the low battery warning happen with around 2-5% left.

Not helpful. Remember that warnings should help users fix the problems. Giving me one more minute of power while I’m listening to Google direct me is… not delightful. Give me a half hour or hour so that I know to charge up the unit.

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Axure Self-Assessment Tool


Posted By on Jul 25, 2016

Wondering how advanced you, your team, or worker is with Axure? People have asked us to assess Axure skills. To really do that, we’d need to manually review someone’s prototyping work. We can do that! We can pour through someone’s file(s) and see what& read more

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