Empathy in Interaction Design

I just read a passage in the book Flow. (page 148) I had to highlight it.

Since childhood he had been fascinated with machinery of every kind. He was especially drawn to anything that wasn’t working properly: "Like when my mother’s toaster went on the fritz, I asked myself: ‘If I were that toaster and I didn’t work, what would be wrong with me?’ " Then he disassembled the toaster and found the defect, and fixed it.

This made me immediately think of Interaction Design.  Specifically, what question do I ask myself when looking at software and websites? At first, I thought it was, "If I were my dad or Penny, what would I be thinking when trying to use this?" Then I realized that this is not the question I ask myself.  I really ask, "If I were the software or website and my dad or Penny was using me and they are frustrated, then what could I do to help them?"

Interaction Design is not empathizing with the user. It is empathizing with the user interface.  If I were the user interface, how would I help these people?  This personification of user interface is critical to doing well as a designer.


Unrelated tidbit: This morning, I tried to count my steps all the way to the train. It is much harder than I thought.  I started to lose track at 160. Then I completely gave up at 250.  I wonder.  What is the highest number I have ever counted to?  Really?  Next time you are on a walk by yourself, count your steps until you give up.

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