Software continues to evolve and influence multiple industries. As the number of software applications available for consumers increases in genres and in numbers, more critical reviews are being left on product pages more than ever before. Consumers are no longer limited to three or four software options for the task they need to complete, and they know it. This means that the software must be designed with a human-focus: easy to use while meeting consumer needs. Unfortunately, product review pages are often littered with comments regarding issues such as the difficulty of use, the poor user interface, the slow loading screen, the program crashes, and many more. This may be why empathy has become an emerging topic to software developers as they try to design a program that stays competitive in the industry as well as remains consumer-friendly.
It’s All About the User Experience
Empathy tends to be one of the lesser flexed muscles of a software developer, and it is only recently with the increased competition that it became an acknowledged problem. However, most experts agree that empathy could be actively practiced and learned. Empathy can be used as a powerful tool to supercharge software development, and industry leaders are beginning to teach the importance of empathy to their teams. Empathy means being able to understand and sympathize with the perspective of another individual. While there are behind the scene programs designed for artificial intelligence and robotics that most consumers never notice, many programs are designed to help consumers complete tasks, stay productive, or be entertained. This is why user experience in software development is extremely important. According to Derek Hansen of Instructure, if we do not account for the needs of the customer, our software shifts from being human-focused to task-focused. Empathy will help software developers understand the needs of the consumer on a particular software and how the software may be improved.
Use Empathy to Peek into the Future
Being considerate is a part of practicing empathy and can often be used when troubleshooting programs in the future. When a badly programmed application is released, empathy is an essential skill when the team goes over what needs to be fixed. Empathy allows software developers to consider the stress caused when customers shift their irritation to their customer service representatives when a badly written program is released. According to Groove HQ, customer service representatives must then ask the type of troubleshooting questions that the software development team should have asked during the development phase before the program was released.
Writing a More Maintainable Code
Empathy is even more important when working in teams. Empathy allows a person to try to make sense of another person’s point of view. In between endless lines of programming, this can be difficult when all programmers want to get to the finish line with their program and hand the project over to the next team. A well-organized set of code is sacrificed for one written in haste. Badly written code will not only irritate the next programmer who takes over the project, but it can also have dire consequences to the original programmer’s reputation. Writing more maintainable code is a good empathy practice.
Bringing Empathy Into an AI
As we enter an age with artificial intelligence, empathy in software development becomes even more crucial, according to Kairos. Artificial intelligence, by nature, has no empathy. It is up to the software developer to program empathy into it. This can be difficult unless the software development team already practices empathy and understands its importance. The way to design an AI is still far from perfect or standardized. At this stage, most experts agree that artificial intelligence needs a sensor to read the situation, a reason to process their sensor, act upon their reasoning, and finally adapt and improve with updates from the programmer. At any stage, empathy will be a useful tool for a better experience. From a robotic restaurant hostess to an AI hotel receptionist, artificial intelligence will be interacting with human beings where empathy from the software developer is ideal to create a better experience for everyone.
Collaboration in a Virtual Job Environment
CNBC reports that in 2018, about 70 percent of the global professional workforce work from home at least one day a week. With the number of remote workforces increasing every year, software developers will be focused more on productivity, team collaboration, and communication applications in the coming years. In this type of virtual work environment, empathy is essential to design the applications that will satisfy the work needs of a team of people working in different geographical areas needing to finish a project together.
Understand What Services Matter More to Users
Empathy can be important not only when meeting customer needs but in times of crisis, empathy can help developers figure out what features’ consumers want to be fixed first. For example, a shopping cart page for an online store usually has many features on it. If the page goes down, customers will naturally be upset. As software developers, which feature should be fixed first? This question can result in different answers from two different perspectives: the business and the customer. Empathy discussions with a development team can help prioritize the tasks to minimize the length of negative feedback from both businesses and consumers.
Empathy is more important to software development teams than ever before, and the struggle to meet the needs of both business owners and consumers can quickly erode any feelings of empathy. However, in the long run, the practice of empathy will create a better program and longer success.