Empathetic web design: the essence

Empathetic web design: make your platform convenient

Everyone has heard of empathy before. Everyone also has a rough idea of the meaning of this word. But what exactly does empathy have to do with web design, and why is empathetic web design so important? Let’s take a look together with SECLGroup

What is empathy?

According to the anthropologist and psychologist Paul Ekman, there are two types of empathy.

  1. Emotional empathy describes when you take over the feelings of another person. So you feel what the other person feels (for example a sweet baby laughs, and you laugh automatically).
  2. Cognitive empathy, on the other hand, is important for web designers because it describes the possibility of imagining yourself in the shoes of a person and understanding his feelings and motives, even without adopting the feelings. In this way, the web designer can predict human behavior and understand his intentions.

Empathetic web design – how to integrate empathy into web design?

So what does empathy have to do with web design? A web designer must know the user of a website – with empathy, he manages to forget his own motifs and settings and concentrate on the user. He should make sure that the user feels comfortable and that his expectations are met. The definition of “empathetic design” is as follows: empathetic design is a user-centered design approach that emphasizes the user’s feelings towards a product.

What makes a website empathetic?

The user comes first – you have to understand it when you start designing a website. Even a well-functioning site can benefit from the empathy approach. It is advisable to find out what your customers need, to put yourself in the position of the potential customer, and “to look behind marketing.”

Let’s take a look at several examples of empathetic design.

Offer help

The aspect of helping is a central element of empathetic web design. In a real store, you will also find staff who can help and advise you in an emergency. This is exactly how users on your website should be able to be advised if necessary. 

You can integrate a live chat run by employees, or you use a chatbot. Chatbots are based on artificial intelligence and are available around the clock. Virtual assistants can help users find what they are looking for.

Another way to help the user is augmented reality. For example, IKEA offers, among other things, an app with which the furniture can be displayed directly in the apartment. These possibilities simplify the user’s purchase decision and thus make a purchase more likely.


Another important factor for empathetic web design is usability. Let your users notice that the website is made by people. This is achieved, for example, through individual texts or small interactions that lead the user to conversion.

You should not use generic exclamation marks or warnings if the user fills out a form incorrectly or another error occurs. Better formulate sentences like: “Oh no! Unfortunately, that didn’t work out! :(” to pick up the user in the situation of frustration or disappointment. This increases the chances that he wants to try again.

Thinking ahead

Decisions mean energy loss. The more decisions a user has to make, the more likely he is to consider the user experience negative. If you are looking for a red dress, for example, you will see hundreds or thousands of red dresses. Very few people want to look at all the dresses and then decide.

Therefore, you should consider which decisions you can make for the user. The so-called anticipatory design plays a role here – the anticipatory design helps to reduce options and thus simplify or completely eliminate decisions.

The design process

The design process itself doesn’t have to look the same: research the market, learn about innovations, etc., to make the user experience as enjoyable as possible. The users have become so used to certain things that they are not aware there could be better solutions. For this reason, it is important to observe the user directly when dealing with the website. Surveys and discussions are also good ways to obtain important information.

Empathy map

The model of the Empathy Map helps to put yourself in the position of the user. It consists of six questions to be answered:

  1. What does the person see? This also includes the surrounding area. This question helps you to understand in which situation the user is viewing the site.
  2. What does the person hear?
  3. What does the person think about, and how does the person feel?
  4. What does the person do and say? What actions does the person take? What does she write on the net?
  5. What problems, worries, and needs does the person have?
  6. What is the goal of the person? What does he expect from the product?

Tip: it is also helpful to determine the target situation from these six questions. Having answered all of them, it will become much clearer for you what needs to be improved or eliminated.

Empathetic web design – a conclusion

Good design is no longer measured solely by aesthetics. Rather, it is about putting people at the center and satisfying needs through empathetic thinking. So, both parties benefit: users enjoy utilizing your platform, and you get increased conversions and an impressive number of visitors.

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