When designing with empathy we need constant reminders

Photo illustration by Joe Pemberton

Why Touch? Because, most people who use our site have older phones. The small screen and slower processor of the is an inexpensive way for the team to experience our product the way our users do.

I’m not prescribing this device for your team. You need to get your own viewport and OS analytics. The device(s) you should you use on your team should be a proxy for your audience.

We already know we’re not the target user

We’ve got a fat internet connection, a 20 inch monitor, an iPhone X (or Galaxy S7) and sometimes iPads. Meanwhile our users have phones that are 2 or 3 years old.

Visualize your designer bubble:

You are taking a tour of DisneyWorld in a self-driving, air conditioned Audi A6 with a chilled Dole Whip in your hand.

While your users are standing on 106 degree Orlando blacktop, eating an $8 churro, while they wait for a crying kid to get off the Dumbo ride.

Make design decisions from the vantage point of the actual experience, not a protected bubble.

It’s a physical reminder

On the site we’re working on, most users have an older Android (Samsung Galaxy S3, S4) or if they’re on iPhone it’s most likely 3 generations old (iPhone 4, 5, or SE). Small.

Instead of looking at our designs on all those devices we use the iPod as a proxy. It’s got a 320 x 568 screen (the retina pixel density is double that, but physically it’s just bigger than a credit card). We use the actual devices on Android for QA, but here I’m talking about referencing screens during design, long before it’s built and deployed in a QA environment. Don’t wait until QA to fix issues with screen size, that’s way too late.

It’s a mental reminder

With that small phone in our hand — a device we wouldn’t choose for ourself — we remember who we’re designing for. What are their motivations? Why are they on your site/service/product? Is this comfortable to read/watch/use? Is it good?

It’s like walking in our users’ shoes a little bit. Using a device you wouldn’t normally use to review our work is mental, and it can be a daily reminder who we work for.

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