Feeling Heard: How Empathy-Driven Development Creates Products Users Love

Ewuranna Smith-Quayson
5 min readDec 4, 2023
Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

We’ve all been there — struggling with a software tool or app that seems needlessly complex. Fighting through confusing menus, error messages that might as well be written in code, buttons that do the opposite of what you’d expect. It leaves you feeling frustrated and thinking “Did ANY actual humans test this before release?!”.

Software developers are not inherently sadists who enjoy watching users suffer. But traditional development practices often unintentionally create barriers between builders and the people using their products. Demographic data, analytical metrics and checklists guide decisions rather than empathy and emotional insight.

Andrea Goulet, CEO of Corgibytes and prominent advocate for more empathetic programming practices, coined the term “Empathy-Driven Development” (EDD) to describe a better way. The goal of EDD is simple:

Put end users at the heart of the design process to create solutions that meet their needs and resonate emotionally.

This means building real relationships, truly listening to users and letting that understanding permeate each design choice.

Why Empathy Matters

Empathy simply means the ability to sense and relate to other peoples’ emotions. Psychologists consider it a critical skill for establishing personal connections and understanding experiences beyond our own.

Product designers need empathy to build digital tools that make users feel empowered rather than incompetent or lost. Just adding easier interfaces and more transitions misses deeper issues users face.

For example, a fintech startup noticed younger demographics struggled to consistently use their money management app. They assumed simpler menus and reminders would help.

After empathetic conversations, they uncovered anxiety about money rooted in personal fears like debt or low incomes. They improved engagement simply by redesigning the app’s messaging and financial goal tools to directly address those emotions.

Core Tenets of EDD

Andrea Goulet insists that when software teams deeply understand user emotions, they can transform…

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Ewuranna Smith-Quayson

I write about my experiences, lessons, discoveries, stories I make up in my head, business stories and “how to” pieces. [Web Developer & Automation Lead by day]