Empathy: Knowing When It’s Not Enough

A football pitch before the game.

It’s not always possible to conduct user research, sometimes budget and time constraints will not allow you to spend time with the system’s intended audience.

The ability to put yourself in their shoes and imagine their mental and emotional state, anticipate their chosen devices and the context of their situation is essential but you have to know when it's not enough.

Having a sports journalist father has given me the option to test this. We recently attended a Premiership Football match and I got the opportunity to chat with some season ticket holders. Those that know me, will understand that Football is not one of my strong points!

I wanted to see how far my empathic skills would go, so I made several predictions about supporters’ needs:

While these items were correct, I couldn't elaborate on the specifics of what's desirable to fans.

Thanks to a tip, I was directed to a local boozer where the season ticket holders meet before games. It was invaluable being able to get information direct from the fans and a lot of fun.

I gleaned information about:

Ignore what you know or think you know and put aside the stakeholders' ideas. Instead talk to your audience, ask them what they think and want and just listen.