The DataHero Blog

The Importance of User Empathy when Building Products

October 3rd, 2013

The Importance of User Empathy When Building ProductsAt DataHero, our vision is to be the platform that enables any user to visualize the data that matters most to them.  We know this is a pretty bold vision.  Beyond its overall scope, it is an ambitious vision because this means making data analysis accessible to any user who can use a computer.  We are truly trying to build a better intelligence and analysis product for anyone.

As such, usability and user experience are an integral part of DataHero’s core value proposition.  DataHero should be accessible, easy to use and, dare I say it, fun.  What this means at DataHero is talking early and often to our users.  This means physically sitting down with new users, current users and potential users and watching them use our product.  When creating a product of any kind, understanding how customers use the product, as well as competitive or similar products, is priceless.  The Steve Krug “Rocket Surgery” approach to usability testing is a fantastic read and is a great way to learn more about how to quickly and efficiently do quick, user-driven iterations.

At a minimum, this means improving your existing product based on the feedback from users.  With each piece of feedback we get from our users, we put it on a post-it note and stick it on a wall in our office; it is our user-feedback board.

DataHero User-Feedback Board

Requests includes bugs, feature requests and things of features people struggled with using DataHero. This board helps us not to forget the things our users think we should do next.  Of course it is our job to sort through which requests fit our product strategy and roadmap and which ones don’t, but this constant visual reminder helps everyone at DataHero to understand the user requests every day.

Beyond fixes, a good product grows beyond the use cases envisioned at the outset.  For example, when we started DataHero, we built our initial prototypes around the ability to combine various data sources; however, our initial discussions quickly demonstrated that if we couldn’t make it super easy to visualize a single data source, having multiple data sources without the ability to easily adjust the visualizations was actually less useful.  Making something that is not only usable, but is also useful means constant communication with users and constant iteration.  A recent post by Alan Wells sums up some UX basics, but one point he makes needs to be driven home.  At its core, UX is about user empathy.  According to Wells:

When you’re deeply involved with the creation of a product, you can no longer depend on your own intuition to maintain this empathy. Talking to real users is an effective solution, and it doesn’t need to be costly or time consuming. If you’ve never done it, you will be astounded by how much you’ll learn in a half day, informal usability testing session where you spend time with 3 actual users who don’t work at your company.

At DataHero, we are passionate about understanding our customer needs and use cases.  With each of our new major features, we have an iterative design process that starts with testing.  Before releasing something new to everyone, we have built into the product the ability to beta test our new designs and concepts with our actual users.  For example, we are currently testing out the design and interface to what will be our new homepage and are of course making it available to a small group of interested users to improve it before releasing to all of our users.

DataHero Homepage in TestingIf you are a user of DataHero and would be interested in helping us out, we’d love to get your feedback.  Please reach out through any of our help channels or directly to jeff (at) or comment below because we’d love to enable our latest feature on your account (for the small price of letting us observe your interactions of course!).  After all, we’re building a product for you, our users. We want to make sure our upcoming design is nothing short of a design that helps you better understand the data that matters the most to you.

By Jeff Zabel

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