Why my student fellow peed her pants

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 13 seconds

Don’t worry this was just an exercise and no real life scenario. Nonetheless, it could have been real. This exercise taught us to develop empathy for the user. The only way to empathise with the users is to fully understand their situation. The goal is to discover hidden issues and things that are not obvious.

So how did we do that? We were three people in a group and everyone had different conditions. The task was pretty simple: Go to the toilet and do your business (or at least pretend to do it)

Janja: cannot hear & cannot talk
Nora: is a robot and does what I tell her
Stephi: cannot see (this was my part)

If you cannot see you have to trust your other senses. I believe in general my main focus is on the visual perception. I mean I do perceive voices & sounds as well as smells but usually, it’s in combination with what I see.

If I can see I feel like I’m in control. During this exercise, I had to trust my other senses. I was not in control but I needed to give instructions to Nora. Janja was the leader, since she could see and knew where to go. She guided me by holding my hand. I needed to focus on three things:

1. Following Janja
2. Thinking ahead of what the next steps are
3. Giving instructions to Nora

Furthermore, I concentrated on what I could hear. Are we still in the hallway with the carpeted floor or did we already enter the restroom? My voice sounded louder than usual and it was hard to distinguish the different noises.

After the exercise, we had to write down our experience.


And here it comes: Nora complains to me that I never gave her the instruction to pull down her pants. I could not believe it, but it’s true! I gave her the instruction to open the toilet lid, sit down and do the business. It’s one small thing, but it’s an essential part of the process. This showed me how one missing step can wreck the whole user experience.

What are my lessons learned?

Clear instructions are essential, especially when you rely on someone else. This means to me, that I need to ask the right questions to the user so that the answers lead me into the right direction. I understand now why empathy is so important. Testing your products and services can bring unaware issues to the surface. This can lead to a huge improvement. Which means a better and more user-friendly product or service is the result.

PS: Don’t forget: No one is perfect and no one can think of everything.
PPS: Nora forgave me!

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