Why emotional feedback matters...

Why Emotional Feedback Matters

Consider the last time you made a decision. How rational was it? How emotional were you at the time? Since it is tax season, I’ll share a story of m a recent experience working with my tax-prep software. A few product changes led me to need information from a prior year’s return. You would have thought this was easy, but it turns out it was far more frustrating that you might have imagined. As a user of software as well as someone who designs and build it I found myself cursing at the UX and design teams from my experience, they had not thought this through all that well, and was I livid! If you asked me to type anything at that moment I would have typed everything is ALL CAPS AND PUT AT LEAST FIVE(!!!!!) exclamation points at the end of each sentence.

What kinds of decisions was I making there and why was it so hard to calm down and think rationally? Emotions matter, and if you’re not measuring them you’re missing out on creating the right connection and my emotional connection to this product is not favorable.

This experience by addition of numerous small frustrations lead me to reach a boiling point, or “death by a thousand paper cuts” as the old saying goes. So what’s a UX, design or product team to do? Simply: measure those emotions to see where along the journey are the high and low emotional points and then solve for the sticky, low emotion points. While many customer journey maps include an emotional swim-lane, how many have real emotional data? There are a number of biometric approaches to examining this and getting real data. At Vempathy, we employ facial expression, tone of voice and contextual sentiment to measure this.

There’s a fallacy that we believe that all sound decisions come from a cool head, as noted by neurologist Antonio Damasio in his 1994 book Descartes’ Error.  Except, we don’t really make rational decisions. We make them with our emotions. There have been a variety of studies that show how people with injuries to parts of the limbic system, a part of the brain important in generating emotions, struggle with making decisions.

It’s not like you can just ask your customers outright either. They lie. Not intentionally but they do. Further many companies misinterpret the underlying importance of particular customer experience elements, which ultimately causes a team ship the wrong thing.

To start you need to identify the true emotional points of an experience and only then work to create an emotional connection. Remember that what the customer says directly may not be a true reflection of what they need, so interpreting the emotional signals behind it you can make better informed decisions in your product. The results can be significant: A retail company that focused on creating this type of emotional connection increased its percentage of emotionally connected customers by 5%, which resulted a 50% increase in same-store-sales growth (1).

Bottom line: Emotionally connected customers buy more of the products they feel connected to, and I’m a perfect example. That tax preparation software I referenced? I’m unlikely to renew next year given my recent experience, so if you have any suggestions, send them my way!

Generative vs Descriptive vs Evaluative Research

Have You Mismatched Your User Research?

Let’s consider you are building an aircraft maintenance system for airport workers, is it a good idea to test the prototypes with florists. It could be a very fun test to watch, but you will not learn much from it and aside from some possible GIF-worthy anecdotes you will waste everyone’s time. This is the same when and ask random people to test your product, who may be have diametrically opposite needs from your users. Make sure you match your test subjects with your intended users. 

Here’s another situation: Recall a time that a sibling had symptoms of the flu. If you want to understand how they feel, you don’t use an ear thermometer to measure their body temperature and then make a guess based on their body temperature how they must feel. You straight up ask them how they feel. If you suspect that they might have a lung infection, you don’t ask him to rate how likely they are to have a lung infection. You run some tests.

Using an ear thermometer to understand how someone feels is like running a usability test to understand how much future users would pay for your unreleased product. Asking someone to judge if they have a lung infection is like sending out a survey to understand why people abandon their carts online. Different research questions require different methods to get answers, and the process of picking the right methods for your research can mean the difference between a successfully clearing a lung infection or having to undergo surgery because you didn’t test the right thing. 

Generative Research is employed when you seek to uncover the problem and learn insights from your user base. The purpose is to formulate a problem statement and determine if it is a relevant problem to your business. This is where Shadowing methods and ethnographic approaches work well. Your subjects likely will not state the problem explicitly, you have to synthesize it from your observations.

Descriptive Research is when you have identified the problem but aren’t certain if you have a solution that will effectively solve that problem. So if you have those symptoms of a sore throat, do you have to take antibiotics or would some water and a good mouthwash clear up the soreness? You may have some trial and error here to validate the problem and see if the solutions you are thinking of might old weight. The goal is to have a more detailed understanding of the context of the problem.

Evaluative Research is used when you have a specific hypothesis to test, such as a checkout flow, calendar design, or landing page where you need to evaluate (get it?) how well the design is performing. This type of research you should conduct frequently and it even better if you can integrate into your product design workflow. A subset of this type of research may be causal (not casual!) which would test if A caused B. A simplistic example: Would a bright red text indicate a negative bank balance better than a black text with a negative sign in front of it?

You may think that these research methods are sequential and to some degree, when starting from scratch this may hold true, however all along your product development cycle, all of these methods can help you refine your problem to solve and the way you go about solving it (i.e. your product and your designs).

Ned to run some evaluative studies? Give Vempathy a try, your first project is on us!

Vempathy automatically generates severity scores.

How Severe Are Your Design Choices?

To make your results from Vempathy more actionable, we generate severity scores for each of the tasks that you define in your UX tests. To better understand severity scores we used an industry standard as our basis, the Nielsen Severity Score. Learn more, as it is described on the Nielsen Norman Group website:

Severity ratings can be used to allocate the most resources to fix the most serious problems and can also provide a rough estimate of the need for additional usability efforts. If the severity ratings indicate that several disastrous usability problems remain in an interface, it will probably be inadvisable to release it. But one might decide to go ahead with the release of a system with several usability problems if they are all judged as being cosmetic in nature.

The severity of a usability problem is a combination of three factors:

The frequency with which the problem occurs: Is it common or rare?
The impact of the problem if it occurs: Will it be easy or difficult for the users to overcome?
The persistence of the problem: Is it a one-time problem that users can overcome once they know about it or will users repeatedly be bothered by the problem?
Finally, of course, one needs to assess the market impact of the problem since certain usability problems can have a devastating effect on the popularity of a product, even if they are “objectively” quite easy to overcome. Even though severity has several components, it is common to combine all aspects of severity in a single severity rating as an overall assessment of each usability problem in order to facilitate prioritizing and decision-making.

The following 0 to 4 rating scale can be used to rate the severity of usability problems:

0 = I don’t agree that this is a usability problem at all
1 = Cosmetic problem only: need not be fixed unless extra time is available on project
2 = Minor usability problem: fixing this should be given low priority
3 = Major usability problem: important to fix, so should be given high priority
4 = Usability catastrophe: imperative to fix this before product can be released


When running a user test there are many things to keep in mind.

Five Tips to a Great User Test

When running a user test there are many things to keep in mind to ensure that you walk away with the insights you set out for. We recommend tackling these five areas to design the best user test for your goals:

1. Have a goal in mind, what do you want to learn?
While a “Do you like this: yes or no” might be tempting to lead with, you want to have a clear learning objective with your test. This is not something you might directly ask your participant, either. If you are looking to learn how successful your onboarding flow is, you want to see where in the flow your participants are frustrated, confused or otherwise impeded from continuing. You won’t ask “Were you confused?” but you might ask how they would explain this to a colleague.

2. Identify (and recruit) the right test participants.
Sometimes you have a specific population you need to target, for example, maybe you need to test your product designs with coaches of elite athletes. In such a case it may be wise to source your own participants rather than find them from a user testing panel. Filtering your participants to a target segment, or a “look-alike” segment will get you results that are more authentic and actionable. Vempathy can help you with recruitment when you setup your UX test.

3. Limit the length of the test.
Just as important as having an objective you likely cannot ask a participant for 1 or 2 hours of testing. Limiting your test to five or less tasks can ensure that you have a clear focus and your test participants will complete the tasks you ask of them. IF there are too many, you risk disengaging your participants and this may affect the outcome of your test.

4. Set the stage and give clear instructions for each task, that aren’t leading.
You want to guide participants to navigate the test, but you also don’t want to be overly prescriptive on what to do. You are looking to learn how they use your product, you’re not telling them how to use it. Avoid “click here, then click here” type of task instructions, instead invite participants to accomplish something like “you’re looking to have a physical therapy appointment, find and make an appointment that fits in your schedule.” Instructive but not prescriptive.

5. Test with five to eight participants.
Research has shown that a minimum of five participants will give you sufficient feedback to take action. User experience researcher and professor Bob Virzi concluded that the first four or five participants find 80% of problems in a usability test and additional subjects are less likely to reveal new information. Additionally, he found that the most severe problems are more likely to be detected by the first few participants. The participants need to be of the right profile (see #2) and you won’t need more than seven or eight to start hearing similar points of feedback.

Sketch Plugin for Vempathy

See How Your Users Feel with The Vempathy Plugin for Sketch

In our continued efforts to bring designers feedback from users within their existing workflows, we are excited to introduce the Vempathy plugin for Sketch. Much like with the Vempathy plugin for Adobe XD, Sketch users will now be able to leverage Vempathy’s advanced, end-to-end qualitative research platform.

With the new Vempathy plugin for Sketch, designers can build better digital experiences with rapid customer feedback and analysis powered by artificial intelligence. They will see exactly when test participants express different emotions while interacting with their designs.

“User research is such a crucial part of any product design process and the emotion reports provided by Vempathy’s tools bring a whole new dimension to your testing. This new Sketch plugin makes it easier than ever to incorporate Vempathy’s powerful insights into your existing workflow” said Daniel Duke, Head of Marketing at Sketch.

“We love empowering designers with research tools that can help them do their jobs better and, as Sketch users ourselves, we are thrilled to bring the power of Vempathy to other Sketch users around the world.” -Paul Cheek, CEO, Vempathy.

To get started with Vempathy and Sketch, please visit:


We’ve been there, everyone seems to have an opinion on your design.

Feedback 101: Everyone is a Designer

We’ve been there, everyone seems to have an opinion on your design. “Move the button to the left!” “Make it blue!” and our favorite cliché “Make the logo bigger!” While many designers might want to filter that feedback out, we say: embrace it!

Reactive, Directive, and Critique
There are three types of feedback and some will cause you to roll your eyes. This feedback is often from your colleagues. But what about from your users?

Reactive Feedback
Reactive feedback is where you’d hear an expression such as “That’s awesome!” or “Ugh, that’s was designed by a small blind parakeet.” There’s an emotion here and likely you can identify it not only based on what they express, but also how it is expressed. From your colleagues, this may be a little frustrating, but from your users, this is gold. You need this reactive, expressive feedback from your users and you need to know how to take action based on it.

Directive Feedback
Directive feedback is often in the form of “If I was designing this, I would…” it offers a specific direction on what you as the designer should do. Sometimes these are in the form of a question “Why don’t you move this to the right?” Regardless of how it’s delivered, you can identify these as a form of direction.

Critique is wonderful feedback, when you can get it. Many people, including some designers, are not trained in giving true critique. Critique is when a the objectives of the design are clarified and for each objective, there’s a comment ho how the design has allowed the user to reach the objective. For example: “If your objective is for the user to begin the checkout process, the choice to place the checkout button in grey on the bottom might not be easily discoverable.” You’ll rarely see this type of feedback from your users as they’re not designers nor are they trained in identifying design objectives.

Capturing Reactive Feedback
When you run a test with Vempathy, you’ll capture and quantify the emotions from your users that can help pinpoint your users reactive feedback and turn it into something that’s actionable.

Learning how your users feel!

Getting to Insights: Learning How Your Users Feel!

We know how your users feel. And you’re just a few steps away from knowing yourself! With Vempathy’s sentiment analysis engine, you’ll pinpoint which parts of your product designs create the best or worst reactions from your users.

Getting Started
Start with creating a test for your design.

Start your first UX test!

After entering a name for the test (participants won’t see) and a welcome message (your test participants will see), you’ll add at least one task for your design.

Give your UX test a name and welcome message.

Your test should have a series of tasks such as questions or instructions.

You’ll be able to filter your test participants on a variety of demographic factors.

Filter test participants for your UX test.

After a quick final summary check, launch your test! Within 48 hours, you’ll have great feedback on your designs.

Need more help?
Check out our guide for more details on how to get going!

See How Your Users Feel with The Vempathy Plugin for Adobe XD

Over the past few months we have prioritized working with industry players to form partnerships that will continue to elevate the design community. Today, we are excited to announce the first of these collaborations that will bring design research into designers’ existing workflows.

We have worked with Adobe to bring Vempathy to Adobe XD. With the new Vempathy plugin for Adobe XD, which is available now, designers get feedback on their designs where it counts. They will build better digital experiences with rapid customer feedback and analysis powered by artificial intelligence. They will see exactly when test participants express different emotions while interacting with their designs.

Once designers launch the Vempathy plugin for Adobe XD they can quickly choose any of their Adobe XD prototypes for their UX test. The Vempathy plugin for Adobe XD will then pre-populate a new UX test in Vempathy, which designers can customize by defining tasks for test participants to complete and filtering test participants to their target user persona. Vempathy then automatically sources test participants, records them, and analyzes their emotions to produce qualitative and quantitative UX test reports.

“Research and user testing is vital to the design process”, says Vijay Vachani, Director of Platform & Partner Ecosystem for Creative Cloud at Adobe, “We are delighted Vempathy is bringing it directly into the design workflow with the Vempathy plugin for Adobe XD. With the new plugin, UX/UI designers get seamless access to Vempathy’s research and user testing platform”

“We are very excited to work with Adobe to bring the power of Vempathy’s design research capabilities to designers who have chosen Adobe’s design software. We are confident that empowering designers with tools like Vempathy to improve their design through research is a win for the entire design community.” said Paul Cheek, CEO, Vempathy.

To get started with Vempathy and Adobe XD, please click here or visit:


Coming Soon: Automatic Nielsen Scoring

At Vempathy we also conduct our own UX research and from our research and based on an extensive research study from Bentley University’s Human Factors in Information Design program we have learned that our customers find difficulty in understanding some of the analysis reports that our software produces. Since we practice what we preach, we have been actively exploring different methods of presenting the data generated by our artificial intelligence algorithms.

Knowing that UX designers and researchers rely on a common set of metrics, we have decided to change our reporting to reflect the simple and well understood nature of the Nielsen Severity Rating metric.

The Nielsen Severity Rating is a measure of the priority of attention that should be given to solve a specific problem. The rating takes into account the frequency, impact, and persistence of the problem to help designers and researchers better prioritize and allocate resources towards fixing it. The scale is very simple in that it spans from zero to four with zero being the lowest severity and four being the highest severity.

In Vempathy, the Nielsen score will be analyzed across test participants based on our emotion analysis and aggregated for each task in the UX test. With this newly surfaced scoring, designers and researchers will be able to quickly identify the task within their UX test that requires the most immediate attention. This functionality is coming soon! Stay tuned…

Vempathy’s New Getting Started Guide

Getting started with Vempathy is simple and intuitive, but we understand that reviewing and understanding the analysis that Vempathy produces can be difficult for designers and researchers who are not already versed in common emotion metrics. For that reason, we have authored a new getting started guide for our customers. The new Vempathy Getting Started Guide walks you through each and every aspect of using Vempathy.

Whether you need help signing up, designing your first UX test, or analyzing results, the Getting Started Guide has the answers you need. The guide also features 20 screencasts that will show you exactly how to make the best use of Vempathy. Designed with best practices in mind, you are sure to pick up some tips and trick to get the most out of your UX research!

Interested in taking advantage of our Getting Started Guide? You can check it out right here >