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Empathy in creating persona's

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  • 1. Mahir Önder Alkaya IO 1304615 Strategic Product Design m.o.alkaya@gmail.comABSTRACT Furthermore, the emotional state of a person couldDeveloping empathy for the user is an essential part of hinder him/her in the process. This suggests that theuser-centered design. While preferable this complex situation to a large degree determines the level ofprocess should be executed by a multi-disciplinary team empathy which can be achieved. [2] Some sources evenincluding social scientist, most projects do not have the go as far as describing empathy as an effort, namely:recourses to do so. Therefore several tools have been “The effort to see the world through the eyes of others,developed to aid designers in their process. One of understand the world through their experiences, andthese tools, the “Empathy Map” tool for creating feel the world through their emotions”. The level ofpersonas, is discussed in this article. This tool was used empathy gained through this effort can then be dividedby the author in a project during his education at the in five stadia. [1]Industrial Design Engineering faculty of the TU Delft.This article also contains a brief review of this project 1. Functionaland concludes with recommendations for improvement 2. Cognitiveof the tool based on several books, articles and otherliterature about the topic. 3. Emotional 4. SocialKeywords 5. CulturalPersonas, Empathy, Tool evaluation, Customer insight,User-centered design Ideally, to gain profound empathy (up to level four or five including insight of interactions between levels), aTopic nr 1.12; Persona’s process of four steps is followed: Discovery,INTRODUCTION Immersion, Connection and Detachment. WhereSuccessful innovation requires a deep understanding of respectively the designer enters the user‟s world,customers including their environment, daily routines, wanders around in his/her shoes, understands andconcerns and aspirations. However, even though connects with the user and finally detaches with morecompanies invest heavily in market research, they often insight and empathy. [2] One can imagine that thiswind up neglecting the customer‟s perspective when process preferably requires a team of highly skilleddesigning. [4] Not every company has the (human) social staff. Unfortunately, not every design team hasresources or the know-how to hold interviews or this privilege. Therefore a series of tools and techniquesextensive focus groups with their customers. have been developed for designers to gain moreFurthermore, asking the customers what they need isn‟t empathy for their targeted audience when talking to- oralways helpful. Like Henry Ford once said: “If I had observing the customer is not possible. The tool whichasked my customers what they wanted, they would have is discussed in this article is the “empathy map” tooltold me a faster horse”. and it serves to develop personas to help the design team in their process.EmpathyThe adjective „empathic‟ in relation to design was Personasintroduced in the late 1990‟s when companies started to A persona is the representation of a typical (fictional)realize that only listening to customer‟s responses on person from within the target audience. It is anquestionnaires was not enough to develop successful archetype which can be used to guide decisions in theproducts. [2] Empathy can best be described as an design process. A persona typically consists of generalability or a mental habit of a person to identify with- demographic factors combined with more specific data,and understand another person‟s feelings, ideas and like hobbies, marital status, ambitions etc. Furthermore,circumstances. [1] The willingness of a person to a persona is context specific, meaning it often containsempathize however also plays a large role in the data which is valuable in one context, but close toprocess. A person could be more willing to empathize valueless in another. [3, 6] A typical persona can bewith another due to his/her personal connection or due seen in figure 1.to his/her high commitment to a (design) project. 1
  • 2. Figure 1. A Persona developed for demolition/renovation servicesTHE “EMPATHY MAP” TOOL The Burger King adventureThe visual thinking company “X-Plane” has developed The outcome of the project was a plan to graduallya tool for designers to aid them in creating valuable change the strategy of Burger King in 10 years, therebypersona‟s to guide their process. According to the aligning their touchpoints to suit the new segments. Thecompany, this tool helps to go beyond a customer‟s new roadmap was guided by keeping the rough imagedemographic characteristics and develop a better of the fast food chain, while gradually focusing more onunderstanding of their environment, behavior, concerns transparency, wellbeing and health. The “adventure”and aspirations. [4] theme was chosen to communicate the new strategy; Co-branding and cooperating with the discoveryThe tool is used within a workshop setting. First, the channel was (among others) a part of this strategy.participants brainstorm about interesting customersegments to look at (if that is not clear already). Then The context of the course was defined differently forthe pre-designed sheet is filled in with post-its about both new segments, because for one segment the socialseveral aspects of the imagined person. The participants contacts were more important than for the other. Thedo this by consulting their own experiences and by context for Henk (the middle aged father), for example,building upon the comments of others. After the included his worries for his children and his socialworkshop the sheets is summarized into characteristics, contacts with his wife. Emily represented the singlehobbies, occupation etc. to form a persona. The sheet career minded modern woman, so mainly individualand the to-be-answered questions of this tool can be considerations were found relevant for her decision ofseen in figure 2. nutrition‟s. Therefore the boundaries of the context slightly differed per persona. Geographically however,EXPERIENCE WITH THE TOOL the focus was mainly on the Netherlands.The tool was used by the author of this article withinthe course of Brand & Product Strategy which is a part EVALUATIONof the master Strategic Product Design. The client was The tool provided the team with some more insightBurger King and the aim of the project was to develop a about the new segments, mainly till level four of thenew strategy to attract new customer segments to the earlier mentioned ladder (because the tool does notfast food chain. Their current focus was mainly on men focus on the cultural context). The gained insightbetween the age of 18 and 34; it was therefore decided broadened the scope of every individual team memberto explore two new segments, namely: Young career with the experiences of the other team members. Everyminded women (Emily) and middle aged fathers of individual namely has his/her own unique experiencesyoung children (Henk). In order to do this, a workshop and these define his/her empathic horizon. To developwas organized to create two personas using the empathy is, naturally, an individual act. However,discussed tool. The session was facilitated by one discussing the several experiences (for example in aperson who made sure all the questions (which are workshop setting) triggers everyone to make moreshown in figure 2) were answered. connections, which led to an increased understanding. [2] 2
  • 3. Figure 2. The Empathy Map tool; developed by X-PlaneThe drawback of the tool is however that no actual on. This is an essential part at the start of the workshoppeople of the studied group are involved. Furthermore, which works well to create curiosity and motivation.the tool does not involve any activities to stimulate the According to Kouprie M and Visser FS, the connectiondesigner to become the user for a while (like role- phase is where the designer connects with the user byplaying). Therefore the designer mainly stays beside the recalling explicitly upon his/her own memories anduser and develops an understanding of him/her which is experiences in order to reflect and be able to create anrather shallow and limited to his/her own experiences understanding. [2] One could conclude that theand that of the other participants. So the designers discussed tool mainly focuses on this phase and jumpsdevelop (more or less) only the cognitive dimension of directly to it after the discovery phase. Therefore theempathy till the social level (of the earlier mentioned Immersion phase (where the designer walks around inladder). the shoes of the user) is fairly neglected. Without thisThe willingness to empathize is created in the discovery phase the knowledge about the user‟s world does notphase where the team discusses which segment to focus increase significantly, since the designer does not have 3
  • 4. the time to explicitly wander around and to immerse The recommendations for improvement of thewithout making judgments and implementations. “Empathy map” tool are summarized in figure 3. They can be implemented by designers and/or other membersCONCLUSION of (product) development teams to develop moreSome activities do not involve all phases of the process profound empathy with their users. Be aware thoughnaturally. [2] This tool mainly misses two aspects, of that the tool on its self is a communication tool to createwhich one is reflection [3]. The tool does not involve an personas. Keep in mind that many other factors play aaspect in which the designer is triggered to reflect on role in gaining profound empathy with another and thatthe results of the project using the outcome of this tool, the tool does not prescribe how to use the personaswhich is a persona. Furthermore, the tool does not within the whole of the project. For example, ainvolve any suggestions on how to use the outcome at reflection at the end of the project to see if the result fitsall. This is not a major drawback however, because it the persona is highly recommended, but is merely onedoes not explicitly claim to do so either. It is mainly a way to use the gained insight within the project.communication tool to create personas when directcontact is not possible. [2] The second missing aspect REFERENCEShowever is a major drawback which leads to un- 1. Brown T, Change by design: How designprofound understanding of the users instead of strong thinking transforms organizations and inspiresempathy, namely the lack of emphasis on the innovation, Harper Collins publishers 2009,immersion phase. New York, P. 49 – 62 2. Kouprie M and Visser F S, A framework forRecommendations for improvementThe largest improvement could be realized by adding empathy in design; stepping into and out of thean aspect to the tool in which the designer gets user‟s life, Journal of Engineering Design,triggered to immerse with the user. This could be done Vol. 20 No. 5, 2009, P. 437 – 448by adding a sensitizing period before the actual 3. McQuaid H L et al, When you can‟t talk toworkshop (similar to the context mapping method), in customers: Using storyboards and narratives towhich the designer can take his/her time to go through elicit empathy for users, Context andthis phase successfully. By starting this sensitizing conceptualization reader 2007, Faculty ofprocess some time before the workshop, the session is Industrial Design Engineering TU Delft, P. 89able to generate more and deeper information about the - 94experiences of people. [5] This sensitizing period couldconsist of an assignment about the targeted audience or 4. Osterwalder A and Pigneur Y, Business Modelof studying literature including already performed Generation, Self published 2010, P. 126 – 133research about them. Typically this period lasts for 5. Visser F S, Stappers P J and van der Lugt R,about one or two weeks and it enhances the quality and Context mapping: a hands-on introduction,quantity of contributions in generative sessions. [5] Context and conceptualization reader 2007,To improve the connection after having gone through a Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering TUprofound discovery and immersion phase (like Delft, P. 25-50suggested), a role playing game could be included tothe tool. Role playing, when properly executed, 6. Warfel T Z, data driven design research;facilitates one‟s ability to understand another person‟s Personas, Messagefirstaffective behavior and understand how another person http://www.slideshare.net/toddwarfel/data-views the world. This is a good way to connect with a driven-design-research-personasperson with whom direct contact is not possible, usingone‟s own experience. One should be aware though thathaving insight in (qualitative) user data, gained in thediscovery and immersion phase, is therefore essential.[2] 4 Figure 3. Recommendations for improvement