Stepping in one’s shoes – via Bodystorming

Reading Time: 3 mins approx.

In my previous article – Typography for Older Adults. How important is it? , I mentioned that to be a skilled UX Designer, we need to have the ability to empathize with people. Once you understand their –  point of views, interests, pains, and gains, we may provide viable solutions or ideas to ensure that our users have an amazing experience.

But one question appears before us – how can we empathize effectively with our users to understand their physical and psychological needs?  A common practice done during user research phase is to use interviews to get a better idea of them and to observe people around us – such as how people react to different situations, what their day to day activities are, how frequently some events occur and so on. The user groups for our research consists of the young, the old, kids and people with special needs as well.

Let’s say we are creating a product or application for the visually impaired. It’s naturally an immense challenge for UX designers who have never experienced such impairments. However, there is a way to overcome it and empathize with our end users using a technique known as Bodystorming.

Bodystorming is an immersive ideation method for exploring ideas through role-playing and physically interacting with props, prototypes, actual products, and physical spaces. Taking our current user group of visually impaired, we can employ body storming by covering our eyes and testing the app. By bodystorming, we can understand the relationship between people, their physical location, and the things that they use in their environment.

Photo courtesy : Medium.com

This technique requires setting up an experience – complete with necessary artifacts and people – and physically “testing” it. Bodystorming can also include physically changing your space during ideation. What you’re focused on here is the way you interact with your environment and the choices you make while in it.

Why bodystorm? This is done to generate unexpected ideas that might not be realized by talking or sketching. We bodystorm to help create empathy in the context of possible solutions for prototyping. Many actors in movies and theatres follow this method to step into their character’s shoes.

If you’re stuck in your ideation phase, you can bodystorm in the context of a half-baked concept to get you thinking about alternative ideas. 

Traditionally, bodystorming fits into all phases of the innovation process ( i.e, the Design Thinking Methodology).

Photo courtesy : Interaction Design Foundation

To understand more about how bodystorming works, you can watch the famous Bollywood movie “Padman” starring Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor.

This movie is based on the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social activist and entrepreneur from Tamil Nadu who introduced low-cost sanitary pads. 

You can see a short bio video about Arunachalam Muruganantham below, to know more about his life-changing story

As you can see in each and every step (via the Design Thinking method) used by him – he just used the technique of Bodystorming.

To know more about Bodystorming you can check out the article –  Bodystorming as Embodied Designing by Dennis Schleicher, Peter Jones, and Oksana Kachur who are experienced designers. This article gives a detailed description of how Bodystorming works and how useful it is in our work while engaging in specific projects. I recommend all readers to check it out.

As I end this article, please do share in your ideas if you have used Bodystorming technique for any of your projects.

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