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User Empathy is one of the many hats software testers wear often. It is also one that can be easily misplaced, in the sense that testers can be caught up in the walls of development that they forget those outside those walls (the real users)

Empathy is experiencing from the others’ perspective.

Software products are designed in such a way that someone else usually has to use it. We can’t in fact really call it a product if it hasn’t gotten to the hand of the end-users.

“Software is built by a people for a people…”

User empathy, therefore, is the act of viewing, using, or experiencing the software from users’ perspective. Since the end goal is customer satisfaction, customers’ intentions must be analyzed often. 

Empathy will require testing the software with the mind of a user who has little to no knowledge of how the application works. This fact can be easily forgotten as deadlines and release dates get closer, hence, the empathy gap in testing products.

Empathy Gap in IT

There is often a lack of empathy between people working together on projects. When the pressure is on to deliver a new website or application, it is all too easy to be critical of colleagues without understanding the pressure that they may also be under. Testers point in the direction of Developers and cry “poor quality” or Developers look at Business Analysts and mutter “changing requirements”. Meanwhile, there is also a lack of empathy between the project team and the most important person of all – the customer  ( on the subject of empathy

Users satisfaction increases sales and generates revenue back to the business amongst other things that makes customers the most important people at the end of the day

My mother was suffering from a terminal condition, and I often had to accompany her to her doctor’s office.

On one such occasion when we arrived for her appointment the check-in line was halfway out the door. I could see the discomfort in my mom’s eyes as we waited an extremely long time just to get her checked-in. When we finally reached the front desk I asked the receptionist the reason for the long delay. It turned out that the hospital had just changed their patient software over to a new system and was experiencing software performance issues and a poorly designed user interface.

I wondered if this was something the folks who developed and tested this software had even considered – the fact that the performance of their application could possibly cause their end-users to suffer. (Joe colantonio on the subject of empathy)

User empathy in software testing involves knowing who the target users of the system are and creating scenarios with this user personas.  

Customers’ experience with diverse applications will expose the absence of empathy in the development process. Perhaps, you have also experienced an app that made you think “what were the developers of this app thinking about while building this app”

How an Empathetic Tester Works

An emphatic tester plays the middleman role between the developer and the user. While she understands the frameworks and technical parts of the system she also considers the users’ non-technical understanding of the system.

An emphatic tester knows the target users and customers. They would create user personas for various scenarios that reflect users’ needs. An emphatic tester will create user-empathy based test scenarios and test in light of the same too

Requirement gathering, user personas, even interactions with prospective users, friends, and families not only gives fabulous ideas or features to be included, but it also helps the testers to understand their needs and views.

Keep Testing!