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Walk a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes:
A Guide to Empathy
Brian Flaherty | Reading time: about 8 min

How well do you know your users? Chances are, not as well as you think. And even for the best designers, it’s easy to assume one knows best how to solve a design problem. But that can get you into trouble. 

When making assumptions about users and what they need, you risk misunderstanding what the real problem is—potentially solving a problem that didn’t need to be solved in the first place. 

That’s where Human-Centered Design (HCD) comes in. HCD helps center the user in the design process so that every design choice meets a real human need. And a crucial and fundamental component to practicing HCD is “Empathy”. 

Here’s how.  

HCD is a creative and recursive process for understanding users, challenging assumptions, and developing innovative solutions to prototype and test. And while different frameworks for HCD (or design thinking) as a continuous improvement philosophy exist, they all place a fundamental focus on customer empathy and engagement as a means of solving the right problem—the right way.

Here, in the CCSQ HCD Center of Excellence, we adhere to a six-phase process.

Regardless of which HCD framework you choose to adopt, empathizing typically falls within the earliest exploratory phases. And due to the inherent non-linear and iterative nature of HCD, it’s not uncommon to be working through multiple phases in parallel (returning to the “blackboard” often) as you work towards a solution. Likewise, empathy for users can evolve at any time throughout the course of the HCD framework as you continue to learn and better understand your users along the way.

Leveraging Personas to Make Better Business Decisions

Empathy Mapping: The 1st Steps

Designing with Empathy:
Accessibility, Usability, and Inclusion

Practitioner Profile:
Stephanie Ray

More Content...

HCD IN ACTION: My Journey into Hospice Care for Empathy Building

Ultimately there are some problems that we cannot solve but understanding the scope of what we can control through our work allows us to serve others in a more meaningful way. 

The Case for Pruning

As professionals who deploy products and services for our customers, how often do we stop and make decisions to prune or simplify? Is the deck stacked against this behavior?  

LEARNING VIDEO: How to Empathy Map

A 5-step process for creating empathy maps that describe user characteristics at the start of a UX design process. Originally published by NNg.

Fact or Fiction?

Try your hand at deciding what is fact and what is fiction in this interactive quiz about the practice of human-centered design.

Resources for Navigating HCD &
the Paperwork Reduction Act

It is essential and mandatory that CCSQ comply with the PRA when applying human-centered design (HCD) processes and methodologies. However, the PRA should not limit HCD best practices to improve the customer experience. 

CCSQ Human-Centered Design

Join us for a case study of how the recently centralized Quality Payment Program’s (QPP) human-centered design team learned to be effective by scaling and streamlining the research processes.
To learn more about the CCSQ HCD Community of Practice, visit our information page.

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