Recharge your Empathy to Create Better Experiences

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Understanding your users’ needs is the biggest part of creating a good experience. But what happens when you cannot understand their perspective? You lose sight of the real goal. Even worse, you insert your own desires into the process. Solve this by recharging your empathy.

First, remember that this is not sympathy. That is when you share feelings with another person. I am not asking you to do that. Empathy is understanding how someone feels regardless of your own. Here are a few ways you can regain empathy and make better user-centric products.

Become a New Member

I explored this idea in a previous article. I asked you to visit a new church. See what their welcoming and onboarding processes are. What is their service like? Do they even have bulletins? Then copy their successes and avoid failures. Or you can walk through the processes at your own church. That way you experience exactly the same as your visitors and new members. Better yet, work out an exchange with a church in your neighborhood. Each can experience being a new visitor and becoming a member. Then share thoughts for improvement.

Experience a Disability

Again, I detailed this in one of my prior articles. Consider what it is like to have a physical disability. This could be using your computer blindfolded. Try consuming a sermon with ear plugs in. Or use your mouse with heavy gloves on your hands. See how your website loads on a dial-up modem connection. Many handicaps have assistive technologies that can help. But they are not perfect. Discover how accessible your digital ministries are for everyone.


The best way to understand the human condition, is to see it in all its forms. Mission trips often give us perspective on the life we live compared to others around the world. Why not consider a mission trip with an eye for their digital ministries. This could be traveling across your own country, or to others. See how other cultures use technology. Experience their hardware limitations and Internet access speeds. Take notes, photos, and videos of your findings. This way you can share them with the larger team.

Stakeholder Interviews

Speaking of team, you need to remember them too. You may not be aware of the frustrations around your own office. Everyone is likely very busy and forgets to talk to each other. Take a few days to schedule time to talk about problems. Have an outline of digital products you make. You just might find they are not satisfied. They might recommend switching approaches. Or you could find out something is very successful. I suggest that you make your meetings for at least 90 minutes. This breaks conventional meeting times of an hour, and allows them to open up to you.

Action Item

Perform at least one of the mentioned ideas. Document your findings well. Compile them into a short presentation and be ready to share. Your church staff wants to know what you discovered. They will also have more buy-in for these projects when they see the evidence. Like personas, design a small poster for print. Remind yourself of the biggest ideas you uncovered. If you found this exercise helpful, schedule another one in a year. If you have any other ideas, share them on social media or in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of Iwan Beijes

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.