Or, how user empathy can help you connect with your website visitors


As a kid I always loved food (not much has changed). Sadly, though, that love didn’t extend to free school dinners. I mean who wants to retrieve soggy chips from grey water? Not me. That didn’t exactly float my gravy boat. And despite my face often looking like a series of sad emojis, the dinner ladies would be quick to remind me that it could be worse. “At least you’re not in Ethiopia!” they’d shout over their bubbling Bain Maries.

So not only was I contending with sub-standard food. I was also feeling guilty about eating anything at all. Needless to say, this experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

Growing up in the 80s, I was acutely aware of the famine in East Africa. Sadly, images of starving babies were a staple on English TV. Even on the beloved kids show Blue Peter.

And although I didn’t know the word at the time, I had empathy for them. The more I’d see the footage on the news, the more I came to understand that these kids were just like my sister and I. They wanted good food, warm cuddles and somewhere safe to sleep at night. And they deserved these things just as much as we did.

Because empathy isn’t about feeling sorry for someone. Or pitying them. It’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. And feeling what they feel. It doesn’t have to be extreme, dramatic or traumatic. In fact, I believe the process of empathy is what drives all online business success.

In this blog I’ll look at how empathy can unlock deep insights into how people connect with your online business. So you can create a user experience that reflects their:

  • Motivations
  • Emotions
  • Goals

All of which play a role in whether or not they go ahead and trust you enough to buy from you.

So what is User Empathy?

Quite simply, User Empathy is the process of developing an understanding around what your website visitors:

  • Think
  • Feel
  • See
  • Do

You see, in a physical shop, human connection is part and parcel of the experience. As the saying goes “people buy from people”. But in a virtual store, there is no two-way conversation. No eye contact. No “vibe”.  Which is where user empathy comes in. It allows business owners to make informed decisions around what their visitors would enjoy. This can help determine everything from design right through to the tone used in your website copy.

Begin with an empathy map


An empathy map is a great place to start. Whereas buyer personas focus on user behaviour. i.e. what items were bought and when. An empathy map identifies visitor’s emotions, thoughts and feelings. Which can enable you to carve out the experience that reflects what they want and need.

Here’s a quadrant to help guide your empathy map into existence:








The process of empathy mapping can help you gain a deeper understanding into your website customers. Without having to rely on anecdotal information.

Visualise the journey of your online customers  


Heat-map software like Crazy Egg and Hotjar are great user empathy tools because they show how people are interacting with your website. Which can help you determine things like:

  • What makes customers leave/bounce
  • Why some pages gain more interactions than others
  • Where the highest levels of engagement occur

They can also help you identify and fix problematic areas on your website. So your online customers have an experience to match their expectations. So you can make informed decisions around the changes you make to your website. e.g. font, copy or imagery.

Take your website for a spin

A good place to start is to write a list of tasks that you’d typically expect users to complete. For example, if you sell fashion items, a task might be: “browse then buy a brown vegan handbag.” Or sign-up for a VIP email newsletter. Time and record yourself, using Quicktime for example. And you’ll soon be able to gauge whether these tasks are simple or difficult to complete.

Then you can easily make adjustments to your website to resolve any issues your users may be facing.

Do your website users “copy that”?

Using natural language on your website can increase your conversion rate by 25-40%. So it pays (quite literally) to ask yourself honestly, “is this copy written for me? Or for the people I am trying to connect with?”

If you’re unsure, then invest in a professional copywriter who can provide you with an objective perspective. And clarify any disparities in communication your users may be experiencing.

Seek feedback

Asking your users what they think of your website is an efficient way to find out what’s working. And more importantly, what’s not, so you can take the steps to improve it.

Here’s some incentives you can offer to encourage people to provide feedback:

  • a discount on their next order
  • exclusive access to special offers via email
  • a voucher for the next time they shop with you

Be open to change  

user empathy - open to change

User empathy is a fluid process which means being open to the changes your users may be experiencing. Either financial, social or environmental. This will help you stay connected to your users and provide a consistent experience they will grow to love.

All in all, if you want to understand how your ideal clients feel, then user empathy is a process worth investing in. And by doing so, you will be able to builds lasting connections with your tribe, and a sense of trust and loyalty beyond the items they purchase from you.

Now over to you, how do you build connections with your online community?




29 thoughts on “How adopting user empathy can improve your online business”

  1. Wow- very well explained and such an important point to bring up for all online businesses… I can really relate to this and am inspired to use your empathy tips! Thank you so much for sharing! ?✨

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