Sympathy vs. empathy in UX

Sympathy in UX

Sympathy is recognising someone else’s suffering, it is a sharing feeling. However, it is just a reaction to the other person’s situation, which translates into sadness or pityness. When you have sympathy for someone you can sense that they have a problem, but cannot imagine yourself suffering such trouble.

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Empathy in UX

On the other hand, according to, the definition of empathy is:

  • the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself.
  • This is harder than expected, what can I do to improve it?

Some piece of advice to practice empathy in UX

  • Use qualitative investigation methods. To really know user motivation we can arrange in-depth interviews, focus groups or use open-ended questions.
  • Put active listening into use. This will allow us to further understand users and identify those issues we can work on to gather more information.
  • Include all your research team in diverse user research studies so they can empathize with them. If every team member understands the challenges they are facing it is easier that they develop the needed empathy to have work done.
  • Build a diverse UX Research team, so they can add different points of view.
  • Use videos of sessions with users to better display your conclusions. At the moment of disclosing results, if we bring data with real videos about how the users interact with the product, we can build an environment for empathy.
  • Build empathy maps. This is a very useful tool to help the work team to better understand users.
  • Enroll diverse users. For the creative process to be inclusive and can adapt to diversity we must start with speaking to a diverse audience. Here is a link to our instagram with a post (in Spanish) with some tips to do remote research with people with accessibility problems.



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Torresburriel Estudio

Torresburriel Estudio

User Experience & User Research agency focused on services and digital products. Proud member of @UXalliance