Empathy VS Sympathy in UX
The emotions experienced by each user influence their mood, and the user's mood determines the possibility that a product evokes certain emotions or not
10 min read
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Feelings, on the other hand, are properties of value that the user associates with the product as a result of their previous experiences.

As UX experts, our job is always to work to achieve the best possible experiences for users. To understand users we have to put ourselves in their place, but avoiding confusing sympathy with empathy. Although they are concepts that are part of the same group of emotions, they are not exactly the same, and that difference is key to UX.


Sympathy is the recognition of the suffering of others, it is a feeling of fellowship. However, it is simply a reaction to the other person's situation, which is translated in the form of sadness or pity. When you have sympathy for someone you recognize that that person has a problem, but you do not imagine yourself suffering from those problems. If we take this concept and apply it to the field of UX, when the person in charge of the research feels sympathy for the users, they are recognizing that the use of the product or the task they are performing is difficult or complicated.

Although recognizing the problem or  complications of a product helps in a Design Thinking process, it is necessary to go deeper with the user’s feelings.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the thoughts or feelings of others. What empathy implies is the ability to examine the internal world of the other from within.  In the UX framework, when we practice empathy, we are not only understanding the problems that users may have at that moment, but we are able to understand their hopes, fears, abilities, limitations and mental processes.  In Design Thinking, empathy is a deep understanding of the problems and realities of the people you are designing for.

Empathy is crucial to a human-centered design process such as Design Thinking, and empathy helps design thinkers set aside their own assumptions about the world in order to better understand their users and their needs. . Depending on your time constraints, you will want to gather a substantial amount of information at this stage of the Design Thinking process. In the empathy stage of a Design Thinking process, you will develop the empathy, understandings, experiences, insights, and observations that you will use to build the rest of your design project.

Tips to Apply on UX

  • Apply active listening. This will allow us to better understand the users and identify those issues that we can work on to obtain more information.
  • The feedback you collect should be unbiased and objective. Most friends or colleagues will give you good feedback, but diversifying your opinions will help you improve your research. Do not trust the nice and good comments, always look for more opinions that correctly validate your research.
  • Include the entire research team in studies with diverse users so that they empathize with them. If the whole team is aware of the challenges they face, it is easier for them to develop the necessary empathy to get the job done.
  • Join communities and always seek to be up to date with new trends in UX Research. Research always evolves and goes hand in hand with psychology for new discoveries. Be part of the progress and bring new methodologies to your investigations.
  • Create empathy maps. It is a very useful tool to help the work team to better understand the users.

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