Empathetic Design

I just recently happened to catch this video and its accompanying article on the Steelcase website. The video is a 60 Minutes piece on three things that I really like: Steelcase, IDEO (and David Kelley), and Steve Jobs.

It’s worth a view. The Node chair is a pretty great design for classrooms. I test drove one a few months back and was immediately impressed by how comfortable it was. In fact, everything about it screamed “we thought through all of this.” From the way the desk swivels out of the way, to the quality of the materials and the way the back flexes under the right pressure.

Steelcase makes my favorite desk chair and I’ve loved their products for a long time. But this was the first time I had a look into the design behind their products and the first time I realized they used outside firms to help with the design of their products. But I digress.

David Kelley said one thing in the video that really stuck with me. He used the term “empathetic design” to talk about their approach to products and I really liked that.

A few years ago, I wrote an article called “Accessibility to the Face” about the challenges of design thinking with regard to people with disabilities. In the article I made the case that “accessibility” isn’t the point. The point is understanding the customer/user/person who will be using your service or product. Stepping into their shoes, so to speak.

I love David’s term for this because it totally boils this whole way of thinking into a single concept.

It’s not about accessibility, or usability or even “user experience.” I mean, it is eventually, but to really get at the heart of what makes a great experience or product, you have to first empathize with the person who uses it.

I realize this isn’t a new concept. Many people have written about having empathy for the user, but I rarely hear that term. It was good to have a reminder of it and a great way to describe how to talk about design thinking.

State of the Pants


I wanted to give folks an update on where we are at with our products.


First of all, we’re very aware of the bugs that a portion of our users have been experiencing with Calvetica. We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience and are working to find a fix. In the next update, we’ll be adding support for HockeyApp which will allow us to collect better crash reports in the future. This will make it possible for us to anticipate problems before they get out of hand. Customers often report bugs that end up being simple configuration issues or problems with their updates. Because of this, in the past, it was difficult to tell when there was a real problem until a lot of folks started reporting at once. This meant that our fix was delayed for a week or two until we saw the trend. HockeyApp will help us to get that info a lot quicker. Thanks for your patience with us while we work through this. Believe us when we say it’s as frustrating for us as it is for you. We genuinely care about our customers and besides, we use Calvetica everyday too.

Loose Pants

On the bright side, Loose Pants has already been a nice little success for us. People seem to love it, Apple has featured it on the App Store and a couple of days ago, it actually outsold Calvetica for a few hours. We’re glad people are enjoying it and plan on some nice updates in the future.


Probably the biggest news for us right now is Firehose. If you haven’t already heard, Firehose is a new version of the help desk app we built and have been using internally for a year. We originally released it as "YaySupport" and we’ve enjoyed using it so much that we wanted to get serious about it. The backend for Firehose is all done and we’re about two weeks out from being done with the iOS app. The Mac app will be out very soon after that.

We’ve been asked many times by folks why we choose the apps we do. We’re really about scratching our own itch here and we build apps that we want to use. That makes it so we care as much about our apps as you do.

Tempus and Dialvetica

Both of these apps are humming right along. We haven’t seen many bug reports on either of them and we’ve fixed the ones we’ve seen. Neither of these apps are huge cash cows but we still love them. As soon as Firehose is out the door, we’ll be jumping back on Dialvetica with a brand new version and Tempus will likely get some love as well.

Our Newsletter

We’ve wanted to do an email newsletter for a while and even solicited signups for it last year. But the fact is, we don’t like harassing our customers with emails and notices that they don’t want.

So, what we’d like to know is, what would you like to know? We have some ideas but we want to talk about the things you’re interested in hearing.

So, if you don’t mind, please take a second and fill out this one field survey. And if you don’t ever care to get an email newsletter from us, we want to know that too.

Here’s the survey. Thanks for your feedback and we appreciate you being a customer and fan of what we do here.

Richard Branson Chimes In

Looks like Richard Branson has joined the list of folks who are disappointed with Yahoo’s new stance on remote work.

I’m not at all surprised that he supports remote work at Virgin.