UX Case Study: How Empathy Can Create User Satisfaction

Hello all, I am Christy Solomon freelance designer and now a student of Growth school enrolled in the course of UX Mastery.

My area of scope: Dining area, There were a bunch of people in my batch and we were divided into groups of 10 each, where I need to consider my teammates as the users and try to find out their problem in terms of their dining experience and give solutions to solve the problem.

People vector created by freepik

Yeah!! Until in I did this project I never knew designing has a process and only through such a process we will be able to achieve the desired result of launching a successful product.

What is this process all about?

  • Firstly, it starts with empathy, a deep human focus, in order to gain insights from the user. During this I held one on one interview with my teammate considering them as the users.
  • Secondly, Defining all the insights which were derived from the interview during the empathy stage.
  • Thirdly, Ideation stage, which allow for the maximum number of ideas where I will have to bring up with ideas which can solve the user’s problems.
  • Fourthly, make a Prototype of the solution which I came up with for the users.
  • Finally, it’s time for Tests the prototype with the users and receive their feedbacks and processes further to remove any potential issues or add any needful changes.

Stage 1: Empathize

Empathizing with the user is an essential component in the design thing process that is why my mentor Anudeep Ayyagari was so specific about the empathy stage. Initially I dint understand but we were given clear instructions to guide us through.

I had to interview a minimum of five users among my teammates which was a one on one interview. Interviewing is one of the best ways to get the insights from the users, but an interview will only yield minimal results if was not prepared beforehand to conduct with genuine empathy. So I had to prepare a set of questionnaires to ask during the interview to understand / absorb their needs and desire of the user.

The questionnaires were framed in such a way that it leads to a conversation with all What? Why? And how? Questions. The following were the questionnaire which I prepared to ask my users

During the interview I was able to note down the pro’s and con’s of the user’s experience of his/her dining space. The following are the insights of the user’s

Sanjana is a family oriented girl. Though everyone in her family is busy with their own work they at least try to have their family time during dinner. She is mostly unhappy about not having a proper separation between the living and dining area -Privacy. She wants TV or music player to be in her dining area for entertaining and wants to improve the look of her dining space -Ambiance.

Raj is a new married person who lives with his wife alone in an apartment. He though have a dining space in his living room, he does not use it, because there is no proper separation so he feels that his bedroom is more convenient in terms of privacy- Privacy problem. Likewise, he does not prefer to use his coffee table in his kitchen because he cannot watch his movies while eating-Entertainment problem.

Mukesh lives with his mother and brother in Noida. He does not have a dedicated space for dining purposes. Regularly he uses his sofa in the living room for having his meals, so when some visitors during his meals time he feels uncomfortable -Privacy problem. He has space constraints and not a proper dining set up. Basically, he likes an open kinda environment, much into natural view while dining.

Mirdibha is a young fashion designer. Who has a regular dining setup which makes her feel that her dining space is not aesthetically pleasing- Abiance. She also has a problem of keeping things like oven and all the dining essentials -storage issue. She also feels that there is no proper separation between the living and the dining area -privacy issue. Her dining table is too large to fit in due to this her six sitter dining table is not fully functioning.

Sunit Joseph is a young sportsman and a good artist. He though have a proper dining table and space, he does not like the layout of the table, he prefers to have a rectangle one rather than an oval shape -Ambiance issue. He prefers to have his meals in his bedroom because he feels comfortable sitting in his bed compared with his dining chair -comfort.

After recording all the insights during the interview, now its time to define all of them to see which one I will be able to solve and help the user to have a better experience with his/her dining space.

Stage 2: Define

The following are the multiple problems faces by different users whose geographical location is in different parts of the world.

  1. The look and feel of the dining area should be improved
  2. Having difficulty in keeping all the essentials in the dining area.
  3. Dining table layout, either it is too big or the design is not appealing.
  4. Having a personal computer in the dining area.
  5. Lack of entertainment. Like TV, music
  6. Not having a dedicated space for dining.
  7. No proper separation from the living in the dining area.
  8. Not having a proper dining cloth.
  9. Has a six seater dining table, but couldn’t use it fully because of space constraint.
  10. The dining space is not esthetically pleasing.
  11. Things other than dining essentials should not be there in the dining area
  12. Not having proper ventilation and couldn’t use the windows because of next house who’s window is right opposite

Among all the problem which I have stated above, there is some problem which is common between two or more users. For instance,

  1. Privacy issue- For users like Sanjana, Sunit Joseph and Raj have issues with no proper separation between the living area and dining area. When visitors come home when they lunch it makes them feel uncomfortable. That’s one of the reasons why Raj and Sunit Joseph prefers eating in his bedroom.
  2. Storage issue- For users like Mirdhiba and Sanjana they have issues in keeping dining essentials like an oven, crockeries, dining cloths etc. Currently, all these are kept in other rooms where it is not immediately reachable.
  3. Entertainment issue- For users like Raj and Mirdhiba they cannot access TV from their dining area. That’s one of the reasons why they prefer eating in their bedroom.
  4. Ambiance issue- All most all the users whom I interviewed wanted something to improve on the look and feel of the dining area.

Stage 3: Ideate

In this stage I will have to bring out ideas which will potentially solve some or one of my user’s problems. Here is where the “crazy 8" game comes in place!! The game rule is this- coming up with 8 ideas in one minute. No wonder why this method is called as crazy 8 because it was really surprising to see how the crazy ideas pop out. It was interesting

  1. Button operated curtains — The user should be provided by the button in his dining table, where he can close it as and when needed, in this way he can have a proper separation and have his/her meals without any disturbance.
  2. Have mirrors installed inside the dining area for those have smaller space because it gives a psychological impact of the room being in bigger size. The rest of the things can be arranged well.
  3. Installing a TV or music player in the dining room for the entertainment lovers.
  4. A divider with a purpose- where it can be placed between the living and the dining space. One side will be designed to have all the living room essentials and on the other side, it will be designed to keep all the dining essentials. In this way we can solve the storage issue and the privacy issue.
  5. Use ceiling to hang plants and a mirror installed reflecting the plants, for the user who love to dine in a greenery environment.
  6. A calendar which will be a reminder come tracker. To all the users who want to spend their time at least once in a day, this smart calendar will remind the family of the dining time and keep records of the time spent with the family and provide data to its user about the actual time spent with his family. In this way the user who values his family time, so much will get the accurate information about him/her spending time together.
  7. Room separators which can simply be placed between the living and the dining area.

Though I came up with different ideas. I felt that some ideas could really be help full to solve a common problem faced between the users. They are,

  1. A divider with a purpose (privacy and storage) This two sided cupboard which can be placed between the living and the dining area, will serve as a wall to divide the living area and the dining area. Visitors who enter cannot not see who is sitting in the dining area. One side of the cupboard will be designed to hold all the living room essentials and on the other side, will be designed to keep all the dining essentials. In this way we can solve storage issue as well.
  2. Installing TV or music system (Entertainment) Most of the users have the habit of watching TV while eating. Just because of this they avoid eating at the dining table which leads to sitting in a disproportionate posture, which could cause health issues.
  3. Change the look and feel of the space according to the user’s taste (Ambiance) All the users wanted to change the appearance of their present dining setup because they feel bored seeing the same set up. So why not change the ambiance, according to the user’s taste.

Though we have multiple problem statement and multiple solutions addressing it, we can only tackle one problem in a much deeper way at a time, so I felt that privacy issue should be addressed because it was a common concern between the users, so I chose the divider with a purpose for prototyping.

Problem statement: To provide a proper separation between the living and the dining area which helps in better privacy for the user while eating.

Stage 4: Prototyping- A divider with a purpose

One side serves with cabinets and shelves as a crockery unit, the other side facing the living room becomes the TV unit or a place to display decor accessories. Here with this prototype not only privacy problem is sorted but also storage problem is solved.

DINING VIEW
LIVING AREA VIEW
COMBINED VIEW
A divider with a purpose

Stage 5: Testing

It’s time to test the prototype with the users and see If I have rightly empathized with my user or not. The following were my users feedback

Considering the user feedback
With all the feedback I just felt that more than effectiveness and efficiency of a product, the satisfaction is more important (Emotions) My prototype was efficient in terms of storage things and effective in terms of hiding the view of the visitors. But still the satisfaction factor was missing, some of my users were not happy because they could not install this divider in their premises.
Came up with another simple idea
I took all their suggestions and worked out again. During the testing session most of the users said that their premises were small to hold this big cabinet. So I thought why not a simple Room separator, even that could also potentially solve the privacy problem.

User reaction
I went back to the users again with this simple prototype, there response was unbelievable, they liked this idea because they could potentially use this even with the space constraint. The users like Sanjana who has good space can go for the divider with the purpose and rest other three users can go with room separators.

My learnings:

  1. A lot of unlearning happened during the empathy and testing stage in terms of understanding the user behavior
  2. Starting a conversation was not a big deal, but listening to the user’s conversation was difficult. I continuously kept myself quite from giving them solutions immediately as soon as they stated a problem.
  3. Accepting that I did not empathize with my users well, was very difficult. Only after I accepted it. I could come up with a simple solution which solved their issue

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