top of page

Why is Empathy Important in UX/UI Design?

Empathy is the key component of Design Thinking, Human-Centered Design or People-Centric Growth approaches. These empathetic approaches are used in designing engaging desirable experiences. People are at the heart of all good design, both in the design team and the users of the solution. One key way to achieve growth in your business, brand or influence is by improving your Users’ experience. This makes Empathy a key ingredient in your UX/UI Design.

Increase success

If you want to increase your success rates in growing your business, brand or influence, understanding your team and the User experience is key to designing a solution that people will buy. Behind every great piece of design is an empathetic team who are empathetic towards the Users of their design.

Some stakeholders in the design process either don’t understand the importance of empathy or don’t see value in the time it takes to collect the data from the Users and then wonder why their success rates are inconsistent.

Research shows that if you want to achieve consistent success rates, it starts by reducing error.

Reduce error

Error reduction happens when you have a better understanding of the people for whom you are designing. Invest in the time it takes to do User research, as it increases consistency in your success rates and consistency in your revenue streams.

We see examples of teams who develop Empathy Maps on the basis of their own experiences and their own perspectives and then wonder why they have developed a solution that doesn’t fit the Users’ needs or wants.

Successful Empathy Maps are an outcome of the User Research that aligns with the goal of the project and demonstrates an empathetic understanding of the goals Users want to achieve, the benefits they are seeking, it solves their painful problems, matches their unmet needs and/or delivers on their desires.

Develop a Shared Understanding

Empathy Maps provide stakeholders with a visual from insights into their Users giving executives, product teams, marketing teams, and backend developers a better understanding of the people they are designing the experience solutions.

At Leadingrowth many of our frameworks, models and roadmaps have four steps so that we can keep things simple and your team moving forward.

User Empathy RoadMap

Our User Empathy RoadMap has four steps to take you from a hunch about what your Users are seeking right through to an Evidence-based Understanding of your Users. By applying Leadingrowth’s User Empathy RoadMap you can reduce inconsistency and error that results from not understanding your users.

Leadingrowth’s User Empathy RoadMap gives your team a guideline to follow and a roadmap to track your progress towards your outcome-oriented goal.

What are 4 steps to creating a User Empathy Map?

Step 1: Decide on your Desired Outcome

Step 2: Get Outside & Observe

Step 3: Explore & Measure

Step 4: Evaluate & Share

Step 1: Decide on your Desired Outcome

Who is your User?

Do you have a Persona already developed that clearly defines your User? If you do then use your Persona. If you don’t have a Persona, you can create a Persona by clearly describing your user on one page (demographics, psychographics, values, attitudes, and behaviours).

If you are targeting multiple users then develop one Persona and one Empathy Map per User. Putting multiple users on one Empathy Map is confusing and it introduces error. To reduce error and increase success rates, have each Persona and each Empathy Map refer to one clearly described user. Let’s say for example you have three User Personas. We will call them Amit, Kate, and Alex. Often a Persona is given a name to humanize the User. The name helps to distinguishes one User from another. In this example, each User has their own Persona and Empathy Map.

  • Amit – Persona + Empathy Map

  • Kate – Persona + Empathy Map

  • Alex – Persona + Empathy Map

The team decides whether to focus the desired outcome of one Users (e.g. Alex) or all three Users (e.g., Amit, Kate, and Alex). This is an important determination.

If you are developing an Empathy Map for the first time then we recommend focusing on ONE User, as it is easier, keeps it simple, and it reduces your error rates.

What is your desired outcome?

Having clear OKRs that everyone in the team understands is key to the success of your project. OKRs are Objectives and Key Results.

Typically OKRs are decided together in a collaborative team environment so that everyone has ownership and a clear understanding of what the measurable outcomes are and how they are contributing to achieving them.

OKRs are typically written as simple statements using the following formula:

· We will (objective) as measured by (key results)

For example, We will improve the user experience and increase purchase rates by 5%

In this example the objective is improve the user experience and the results are increase purchase rates by 5%.

OKRs motivate the team as they are decided on by the team, the team has ownership of them, and each team member understands what success looks like (an increase in purchase rates by 5%).

Step 2: Get Outside & Observe

“Get outside” is a term that comes from the Agile and Startup worlds, which refers to going to where your Persona is and observing them. Observation or User Research records the behaviours of the Users to understand what they do, say, hear, and see, and how they experience your solution.

What is your User doing?

How is your User navigating themselves around your solution? Are there any behavioural patterns? What does your User do first, then second and third? Is your User reading, viewing, or listening? How is your User experiencing the solution? Is your User in a Brick-and-Mortar Store, Outside, or on a Desktop, Tablet, Mobile, or accessing you through an App or a Third-Party Platform?

What is your User saying?

What is your User saying about your solution specifically or similar solutions in general? Does your User talk about what s/he would like to see? Does your User express delight, disappointment, or is s/he disenfranchised?

What is your User hearing?

What is your User hearing when they are interacting with your solution? Is there silence? Are they listening to background noise (i.e. a Podcast, music, radio, or TV). Does your solution have sounds and if so, do your Users find those sounds appealing, interesting, or annoying? Are they listening/viewing with the sound on or off?

What is your User seeing?

Observe what your User is seeing? What is attracting her/him to do something? Where is s/he looking? What is your User watching?

Step 3: Explore & Measure

After completing the Observational User Research the next step is to interact with your Users to discover and explore their hearts and minds. This involves applying qualitative approaches to explore and discover and quantitative approaches to measure how a User feels and thinks.

Explore and Discover what your Users’ are feeling and thinking

Qualitative User Research may involve Ethnographies, Interviews, Focus Groups, Fireside Chats, Card Sorting Activities, Workshops or Conversations to learn more about how the User feels, any ideas the User has, and to learn what the User thinks about your solution. Curiosity and a willingness to learn from the perspective of your User is key. You want to learn what is working for them, what isn’t working, you want to understand their frustrations, their rationale for their behaviours, and how they go about solving problems and discover any unmet needs they are experiencing.

Measure the extent of your Users’ feelings and thoughts

Quantitative User Research gives you a measure of your Users attitudes, opinions, beliefs, and feelings. You can apply the Quantitative data within your Empathy Maps to share the extent to which the User feels or thinks about something / your solution. You can also apply the quantitative data to build predictive models based on a strongly developed understanding of your Users.

Mostly, Quantitative data involves gathering information and a measurable understanding of your Users through User Analytics, A/B Testing, Eye Tracking, Heat Maps, Funnel Analysis, Cohort Analysis, Surveys, Polls and Experiments.

Quantitative User Research helps you to understand the extent to which your User is feeling or thinking positively or negatively so you can prioritize the order in which you undertake your actions to improve the User Experience.

Step 4: Evaluate & Share

When developing a User Empathy Map to achieve your UX/UI OKRs the fourth step is mapping your insights.


Evaluating the data involves understanding, classifying, summarizing, ordering, differentiating, organizing, attributing, and drawing connections to clearly distinguish and display the relevant results of User Insights on the Empathy Map.

The User Empathy Map consists of ten (10) sections and these are:

1. Who are you empathizing with?

2. What do they need to do?

3. What do they see?

4. What do they say?

5. What do they do?

6. What do they hear?

7. What do they feel?

8. What do they think?

9. What frustrates them?

10. What delights them?

On the User Empathy Map is information about your User (Step 1) and qualitative and quantitative results from observations (Step 2) and an analysis of the hearts and minds analysis of Users (Step 3). These are synthesized into easy to read and understand bites of meaningful and relevant information. Ensure all of the bites of information within each Section are consistent with your Desired Outcome (Step 1).


The team completing the Empathy Map share the map and answer any questions stakeholders have in a multidisciplinary presentation. Often, the User Empathy Map is shared with the Executive team, the Marketing team, the Product team, the Customer Support team, the Sales team, the IT team, and the Backend Developers so that everyone is on the same page.

The presentation is key as it ensures questions are addressed and a shared understanding is reached across an organisation. Error is reduced when everyone has a clear understanding of the organisation’s Users.

Next Steps

The User Empathy Map is a tool that is shared to aid discussion and decision making about what to do next to achieve the OKRs (from Step 1).

To learn more about Empathy head over to our page and discover some insights.

If you are interested in learning more practicing empathy or powering up your own empathy capabilities then take one of our Empathy Workshops or Masterclasses.


bottom of page