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Empathy Is Not Enough: Is User Experience Research Worth It?

Empathy Is Not Enough: Is User Experience Research Worth It?

Robin Peter

January 8, 2023


min read

When it comes to origin stories of new products, their creators often just wanted to solve a problem they (and others) had encountered. If that problem was widespread enough there would be sufficient demand for it to be turned into a profitable business. For example, the creator of couldn’t bear how cumbersome it was to find a date for a meeting that fit everyone. So they created a tool to solve that problem.

Why Empathy Is Not Enough

Finding a widespread problem to solve is only half the story. The product needs to solve the problem in a practical way. If the idea of the product is good but the execution is poor the business will likely still fail. The term for how well the product solves the widespread problem (such as finding a fitting date to meet) is called market fit. The product needs to fulfill three main requirements.  First, the problem has to be widespread so that there is strong demand for it. If the group of individuals experiencing the problem are willing to pay for a product that solves the problem for them, then the product is profitable. Second, if the problem is solved in an adequate way, the product is useful. And third, the product needs to be easy to use and understand – and it doesn't create sub-problems while trying to solve the main one – then the product is usable. If all three requirements are met, the product has good market fit. These three requirements are not independent of each other. In fact, how usable the product is, directly influences its profitability and usefulness. Despite that, it is the most overlooked requirement. Usefulness and profitability are quite tangible concepts. Usefulness; either it solves the problem or it doesn’t. Profitability; either I make money with it or I lose money. 

You are not your product’s user

Usability is not as easy to grasp. How usable a product truly is, is difficult to determine by merely the creator themselves. Why is that? Because the creator is not the stereotypical end-user. The creator often knows the product in and out. They are often blind to some of the most obvious usability issues with the product. One thing the end-users all have in common is that they want to deal with the problem the product promises to solve for them. Beyond that, the user base will likely be very diverse. Different users have different needs. Among other things, the user base will differ in age, gender and familiarity with digital tools. Due to their different circumstances, they will run into different usability issues. In addition to usability issues, the users will also have many, valuable ideas about what features to add to the existing product. So, listening to a product's user-base is indispensable for the product’s survival in the long-run.

The term for how well the product solves the widespread problem (such as finding a fitting date to meet) is called market fit. Good market fit requires:

  1. Strong demand and customers willing to pay for a solution (the product)

  2. Product usefulness

  3. Product usability

How usable the product is, directly influences its profitability and usefulness.
Finding market fit for any product is hard. We can help you with it.

Is User Experience Research worth it?

Yes, it is. Let me explain why. To get on top of the usability issues and lacking features, what the creator needs is user experience research. The experience a user has with a product can be measured through a variety of research methods. One of the most common is the usability test.

What is a Usability Test?

In a usability test, a tester is presented with the product and asked to perform a set of tasks. Taking the example Doodle again, the task might be to schedule a meeting with someone. The tester is closely observed while they perform the tasks and is later interviewed about their experience with the product. Such a usability test usually only requires 5 individuals of the target customer group to find 80% of the issues of the product. It is truly astonishing how much new information can be found out through such a simple, small experiment. Even usability experts will have blind spots when they try to find issues with a product. That is why testing with real users is always worth it.

Listening to your customer base

There is a colossal graveyard of dead products that had great potential but failed because their users were mostly ignored by the creators. The creators of a product must listen to their users otherwise they are doomed. Don’t get me wrong, there is no such thing as a perfect, issue-free product. But that’s not an excuse to never actively test it with users. It is about constant, iterative improvement. If the product is truly useful to its users, the users will be keen to help. They will want the product to succeed. Performing usability tests is always win-win for the creators and the user base. Why? Because the users get improved usability of the product and the creators have a greater profit margin. Not to mention, as a creator you would want to be proud of your precious product and not be ashamed of it.

It’s about mastering growth. Together.

The ultimate goal of any new product is to reach good market fit, satisfy their users and ideally be profitable. Finding out if a product has good usability (and hence market fit) is not easy. It takes a lot of experience and know-how. Thirty3 can help you perform user experience research, come up with solutions, design new features and implement them with you. We will assemble a custom team for your particular situation. So that we can master your growth together.

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