Built with Empathy

empathy noun

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

The Goal of Products

Products are at the end of the day tools which help users get the job done. The job might be helping a user get from point A to B (Uber), or watch content (Netflix) or express themselves with words (@medium). Each product might be doing a lot more in the background or foreground as most products do more than one thing. One of the goals of the product manager is to make sure that the user is happy and content when engaged with the product.

Getting to know the users, all the users

How do you know the user is happy? How do you know your solution is solving the core need of the user? You could ask the user, be the user yourself or start looking at data to give you insights. During any of those exercises, if you are not empathetic to the user, you may miss opportunities to improve the product.

When the user takes that extra few seconds to find the next button, or when the user exhibits confusion, or when the user is just not able to get the job done are all examples of places where you have an opportunity to improve your product. Asking questions and more importantly observing the users is critical for PMs. Also just asking or observing a few users won’t cut it, users behave differently and have different capabilities.

Products that have empathy

Google Search is my favorite product when it comes to showing empathy towards users. AutoSuggest & AutoCorrect are features driven to help the users. While they don’t directly help Google Search as a product, they help Google provide a better experience for the users, it reduces the effort required by the user to get their job done if they are slow at typing, for the ones fast on the keyboard, they help you get stuff down even faster with the keyboard.

Uber entire business is based on empathy, they want to make it easier and cheaper to get from point A to point B. If you don’t know where you are, they will make sure you are able to identify a point A, which also makes it easier to get their driver to get to you.

Sometimes the users will be blunt and let you know what you need to fix, or developers will make some fixes for you. Twitter Hashtags and thread creators were features built for Twitter by its users. Not all products can allow users to build something by themselves

How to be more empathetic?

  • Ignore all the biases against any users, it is not the user’s job to know how to use the product.
  • Ask why they did what they just did, especially when they did something you did not expect
  • Keep observing them, be aware of any difference in behavior from them
  • Observe as much as you can without saying anything. When we are with the products we make we inherently pitch our product, which we need to avoid. Record what you can, you can record the user & the screen. User interviews are also a great way of showcasing problems to the rest of the team.

Do you have any tips on being more empathetic?

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