Empathy in Design and Development: Research

Walk a mile in their shoe is more than a platitude. I have to admit I’m the first one who some times takes for granted that the page will load in x seconds because that’s how long it takes for the content to load in my laptop with my connection at home or in my phone.

Some of the questions I should ask:

  • What devices do they use to access your content?
  • What accessibility tools do they use to work with your material?
  • Does their network connectivity influence how they interact with your content? Your app?
  • Do I need to provide for localization of the content to the users’ language or will English work as a sensible default?
  • Do I have people from the target audience available for interview and ongoing feedback?

Answers to these questions will help define the design and development process. Having access to the devices our target use help us get a better sense of performance for our application.

If you’ve heard Alex Rusell’s presentations on performance and Javascript (or you’ve seen me put videos of his presentations on post and articles I write) you already know that DevTools device emulation and even Page Speed Test mobile testing are only a starting point as they will never fully emulate a device being used in your target area.

I will not go into the differences between desktop and mobile devices; Alex does that much better than I can. The important part is that we need to be mindful of how we test our application.

Design

When we talk about design it’s easier to forget why we go through all these hoops to do design and development. We want to present visually stunning products but we also want to build experiences and uses interfaces that work for our target audiences.

The figure below shows a user centered design and development process where we include our target audiences as early as possible and throughout the design process.

How empathy applies throughout the design process. Credit Shortie Designs
By including users at the earliest stages of the project we can get a better understanding of what they need and what our products (web sites, web apps, and other deliverables) need to offer.

I accept that adding users from our target populations early in the design process may not always be possible. If it’s not then we should research the cultural norms of the country or countries we want to work in.

One of my biggest surprises in this area came when researching a different article when I called for us to pay attention to the next billion users and where they would come from.

The table below, taken from Creating Culturally Customized Content for Website Translation shows how different colors are perceived in different cultures.

COLOR USA China India Egypt Japan
Red Danger
Love
Stop
Good fortune
Luck
Joy
Luck
Fury
Masculine
Death Anger
Danger
Orange Confident
Dependable
Corporate
Fortune
Luck
Joy
Sacred (the Color Saffron) Virtue
Faith
Truth
Future
Youth
Energy
Yellow Coward
Joy
Hope
Wealth
Earth
Royal
Celebration Mourning Grace
Nobility
Green Spring
Money
New
Health
Prosperity
Harmony
Romance
New
Harvest
Happiness
Prosperity
Eternal life
Blue Confident
Dependability
Corporate
Heavenly
Clouds
Mourning
Disgust
Chilling
Virtue
Faith
Truth
Villainy
Purple Royalty
Imagination
Royalty Unhappiness Virtue Wealth
White Purity
Peace
Holy
Mourning Fun
Serenity
Harmony
Joy Purity
Holiness
Black Funeral
Death
Evil
Heaven
Neutral
High Quality
Evil Death
Evil
 

I know that this is a lot of work. We can find ourselves in three different categories of websites (From Creating Culturally Customized Content)

  • Standard websites: this type of website has only one language (usually English) and the same content is intended to reach all countries. No effort was made in terms of website translation, website localization or website internationalization.
  • Localized websites: this type of website ranges from websites with some translated landing pages, websites that are fully translated (localized), to websites that not only offer users with translated content, but also with content specific to their country or locale.
  • Culturally customized websites: this type of website not only takes into account the language and locale of the target audience, but also one or more levels of cultural adaptation: perception, symbolism and behavior.

English is not bad a universal language but it does a diservice to people in the local community that cannot understand it. Assuming that you have the resources we’ll explore a few ways you can use to display content in languages other than English

From a technical stand point it’s easier to go from comps to visual design but how does the design address different languages, different needs