User Empathic Design From the Ground Up

Olivia Clyde
Alex demonstrates  tendency to complicate ideashuman

Understand your user and simple design will follow.

Empathic design is a process that considers everything a user will see and experience when they see a design. Forethought like this creates the best end experience for a user. Anything created with the recipient in mind tends to be liked, if not loved. That is the bread and butter to empathic design.

Our UX guy Alex King has had a myriad of experiences in tech design. From working on prototypes just in the bud, to meticulously subtle upgrades on fully-fledged products, he’s designed it all.

Alex knows that one of the best secrets to good design is simplicity. Whenever he starts out on a process, he likes to nail down the science for how a user thinks, feels, and predicts an experience should be. With user interpretation in mind, he then builds his design customized to fit that. If you empathize, it will come.

The urge to complicate

During a recent company offsite in Mexico, Alex led a breakout session for the CloudApp team to demonstrate this principle. The object of his exercise was to prove that people tend to make things harder than they actually are. His challenge to everyone was to illustrate the process of making toast from start to finish on paper. It was harder than you might expect.

Multi-step diagrams for toast making

Every drawing was unique in its own way, with some having more than eight steps for making a fancy piece of bread! (Note, some of the Europeans on the team like to make their bread from scratch, rendering the rest of us somewhat basic.) Each person viewed the process so differently! After iterating designs with a few more rounds, the process was finally boiled down into three easy steps.

The winning diagram (with Spanish translations)

Ideas that keep users and audience in mind yield the best results! Hence, Alex leads his design with a hypothesis based on how he imagines users will respond to a design. He likes to draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper between two points. Point A is the problem to solve, and point B, the actionable solution, helps him figure out every necessary step in between! 

Stoic Design

One of Alex’s favorite quotes comes from Theodore Rams, which says that “the best design is as little design as possible”. Alex says the toughest part is that no matter how stoic his design becomes, it always needs to fulfill initial need defined in 'point A' on his line.

Professional settings require us to convey messages to others using ideas, conversations, design, or products. Next time you want to get something across to someone else, consider the foundation of your message. What is your thesis? From that, you can derive the supporting details. Finally, figure out the order that makes the most sense for presenting your idea. You’ll find that in any situation, a simple, bottom-to-top way of thinking means clarity, understanding, and a better experience for all.

Click here to learn how CloudApp simplifies design!

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