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User Experience and the Empathy Map

The best business ideas have not always been brand new ideas. Often, an existing product or service is redesigned or improved. Our Course Director, Janja Song had a very immersive class activity to help us learn and understand ways of redesigning products or services.

In groups of three, we had to go to the toilet. One of the group was blindfolded, another was not allowed to speak and the third group member was only allowed to follow instructions. I was blindfolded and experienced the exercise blind. It became clear to me very quickly how much we take for granted. The entire experience was fascinating. The difficulty of finding a door, the discomfort of not knowing who is near you or watching you were very disconcerting. At this stage I was not even in the toilet yet. Getting into the toilet made the exercise even more thought provoking. If you have never been to that toilet before, how do you tell where the basin is? How do you tell where the urinal is? Do you feel your way around which has hygiene implications or do you ask somebody to show you which can be embarrassing and not private. What if there is nobody to help you find your way around the toilet?

As part of the activity I got assistance from my team-mates. Although this was very useful, this was a class activity and it was fun for us. In reality, having to rely on others for basic tasks such as finding a the toilet roll dispenser or even the toilet itself seems to be something that could become very unpleasant and not easy or convenient.

After the activity we were introduced to the empathy map. Empathy is a big part of MACE as well as emotional intelligence. Not only understanding empathy and emotional intelligence, but using them both for problem solving and redesigning products and services. Within our groups, we had to use the empathy map to list feelings we experienced in the activity and identify ways to solve any difficulties we experienced. Obviously we all had very different experiences in the activity and it touched different emotions in each of us depending on out roll in the group.

The case study we were assigned for preparation for this course fitted perfectly with the exercise. Students in France were tasked with redesigning the bathroom experience for older people as they way they use a bathroom is very different to younger users. Students visited retirement homes and elderly people to engage with them and research the key difficulties they were experiencing in their user experience with the bathroom.

The Lean Start Up details user experiences and the ways they can be analysed and improved. In fact, the Lean Start Up encourages constant scrutiny of the user experience of customers. Eric Ries believes that through the user experience we learn a lot about our products and services. Emotional intelligence and empathy play a big part in recognising the problems and how to solve these problems.

The next step for my start up group is to get information from people who suffer from anxiety and how we can assist in reducing or relieving these feelings.  With this knowledge we have a better chance of producing a product that has value for anxiety sufferers.


Published by fortysomethingrebirth

I am a South African from Jo'burg. I love football, music (mainly from the Caribbean) and design. I am currently studying a Masters of Managing in the Creative Economy at Kingston University in London.

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