I was recently asked by somebody who’s considering a career and user experience, what’s the most important skill to be successful in you? Well, there are lots of skills you need. It’s important to be organized and good at communication and proficient with technology. But these are common to many jobs specifically for you.
The skill that’s important is the ability to empathize with other people. Now, the word empathy sounds rather touchy feely and ambiguous, like being a people person, but that’s not truly what it means. It doesn’t even mean that you like people necessarily. Empathy means you have the imagination to understand the world from someone else’s point of view and to feel how they feel. Now, why is this so important for you? Well, you are not. The user is one of our most often repeated sayings. And there’s actually an unspoken corollary to that, which is you are not the user and you better figure out what the actual user needs instead of just creating what you like, having a strong sense of empathy and the ability to step outside your bubble and really see things, the way that somebody else sees them is invaluable. When the core task you need to do is create things for people who you don’t know and may never meet, who are in environments you’ve never experienced. Many U.S. activities.
Our efforts to support empathy, we do interviews and surveys. We put that information into personas and scenarios. But ultimately, those are just data points and memory aids. The people creating the product still have to do the work of internalizing this information and using it to figure out what they should build. If you have a naturally strong sense of empathy or if you were to develop this sense, you have a head start on this critical skill for success in U x.