2 October 2006

Applied empathy: a design framework for meeting human needs and desires

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“The methods most user experience professionals typically use today are, at best, incomplete and, at worst, without any meaningful focus,” writes Dirk Knemeyer in UXMatters.

“There is not a successful, established approach and framework for closely linking the real-world needs and desires of our potential customers into the DNA of product strategy and development. Sure, there are various examples of the integration of users’ needs and product strategy being successfully accomplished in some cases, but they are more the outcome of clear vision and talented design than an intentional, strategic product architecture that really accommodates people’s needs.”

“So, let’s step back for a minute and think about the problem of user-centered design from a different perspective. Typically, we boil users’ needs and desires down to only those that are most obvious and complementary to the company, product, brand, or communication we are designing. This is especially true for product design, where we often translate needs and desires into issues of usability: ‘They want it to be quick and simple!’ ‘They want it to look good!’ But these product goals have little to do with the real needs and desires of actual users.”

“[Instead] we can engage customers through very thoughtful and intentional design that deeply considers the needs and desires of people—independently of the business and strategic goals that usually define the products we design. By approaching our problem-solving from a user-centred perspective and dovetailing that viewpoint with the more traditional, task-focused design approaches we typically employ, we can achieve and enjoy a resonant advantage over our competitors in the marketplace.”

Knemeyer then goes on to introduce a framework he has created for considering and planning design around real human needs and desires.

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