One of the most important traits for any UX professional is empathy — the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another and imagine how they might feel. What is the experience like for them? If you can achieve this mindset, your designs and their future users will benefit greatly.
It sounds simple, but once you’re invested in a project and attached to the design you’ve created or contributed to, it becomes more difficult. You already have a mental model of the interface and you understand how every interaction is supposed to work and what the intended goals are. In short, you’ve lost objectivity.
This is why in-person user testing is so beneficial. When you see the frustrations of someone trying to use that interface and watch as they try to navigate through it to complete tasks, you’ll often have an “aha” moment in which you’ll understand the design from a perspective you hadn’t even considered. It’s important to embrace these moments and use what we learn to improve our designs. The more of these experiences you have, the more empathy will take its rightful place in your UX strategy.
This TED talk has been out there for a few years, but it’s very relevant today. In any facet of our lives, our understanding is improved by looking at the facts from another’s point of view — stepping out of our own frame of reference and really trying to understand the experience from all sides.