Explaining the Empathize Phase


After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Analyze the Empathize Phase in the Design Thinking process, especially its purpose, techniques, and how it contributes to the problem-solving approach

The Empathize Phase

In this lesson, the focus will be on the first stage of Design Thinking, empathizing with users. Learn strategies for observing, engaging, and immersing in users' experiences and emotions.

What is the Empathize Phase?

The Empathize phase is the first stage in the Design Thinking process. Empathy is critical to a human-centered design process such as Design Thinking, and Empathize means understanding the users' needs, experiences, and problems.

It all starts with empathy!

Things to consider:

  • Environment
  • People (Goals/Motivations/Challenges and so on)
  • Things
  • Activities / Interactions

Why is Empathy Important?

Empathy allows you to set aside your own assumptions about the world and gain real insights into users and their needs. This understanding forms the basis for the following stages of Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

Most of the time what people say is not what they do, think, or feel.

Techniques for Empathy

There are several techniques for understanding user needs better, including direct observation, engaging with and interviewing users, and immersing yourself in the user's environment.

  • Direct observation: Observe users in their real-life context to understand their behavior, preferences, and pain points.
  • Engage: Engage with users via interviews, focus groups or conversations to gain a deeper understanding of their perspectives. Use open-ended questions and encourage them to share stories.
  • Immerse: Immerse yourself in the same environment as your users to get first-hand insights into their lives. This could involve using the product or service yourself or spending a day in the user's shoes.

Documenting Insights

All collected information and insights should be documented for the next phases. Methods can include visual formats such as sticky notes, journey maps, or empathy maps.

Next Phase: Define

The insights gathered during the Empathize phase are used in the next phase, Define, to clearly articulate the user's needs and problems you've identified.

Homework: Choose a product or service you use regularly and attempt to empathize with another type of user (for example someone older/younger, a user with different abilities). Document your insights.

In the next lesson, we'll progress to the Define Phase, where you learn to analyze your observations and synthesize them into clear, actionable problem statements.

Additional References - The Empathize Phase

Stage 1 in the Design Thinking Process: Empathize with Your Users

Source: Stage 1 in the Design Thinking Process: Empathise with Your Users | IxDF (interaction-design.org)

Overview: Dive into strategies for empathizing with users during the first stage of Design Thinking. Explore methods such as empathy mapping, interviews, and immersing in users’ experiences.

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