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3 principles for empathy and web development


 3 principles for empathy and web development

In the last article, while we were talking about the 3 myths about empathy and web developers, we mentioned EDD ( Empathy-Driven Development ) or Empathy-Driven Development. 3 principles for empathy and web development

We saw that EDD was a highly procedural framework integrated by Andrea Goulet and Corgibytes in their teams, and that it serves to incorporate empathy in engineering teams.

3 principles for empathy and web development
3 principles for empathy and web development

Today we will continue to delve into this methodology and learn some basic principles to sharpen the aptitude for empathy. In the next article, we will look at how EDD works. 

But first, a little definition:

What is EDD?

Empathy-Driven Development (EDD) is an approach to developing software that relies on team members making decisions based on empathy towards interested stakeholders. Empathy-driven development is an attempt to improve software engineering through this communicative skill.

3 initial principles to sharpen the aptitude for empathy

Developing empathy in the world of web development should be part of continuous work, in the same way as learning a new programming language or a new web programming framework. Let's look at some of the principles Andrea Goulet uses and shares to sharpen this skill.

1. Trade guilt for honor

As a developer, it is very likely that you have come across totally impenetrable old code, and it has driven you to despair. What was your reaction Surely you have dedicated endless unpronounceable adjectives to the previous developer (who could be yourself), blaming that person.

Andrea recommends doing the “moving beyond guilt and shame” exercise, as shaming the original developer “wastes your time and energy”. Guilt and shame "are unproductive and the opposite of empathy." The idea is to “honor the work of the people who came before you” and think that maybe those people “did their best work”, and ask yourself “why did they choose this solution?”. According to Andrea, "That is when you will get answers, much more enlightening."

Andrea and other practitioners of this methodology encourage you to think about " limitations " to help you have more empathy for previous developers.

"Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to write the worst code possible." -Andrea Goulet

2. Consider your project as an archaeological excavation

Andrea encourages engineers to visualize ancient code as archaeological sites, if they want to develop “ empathic coding practices ”.

"When archaeologists study an ancient site, they don't know the full story about what life was like at that time, and they have to look for artifacts" from the time. The goal is to emulate it, and if you "leave communication artifacts in your code now, it will be much easier for future developers ."

Communication artifacts are an operational advantage and at the same time an exercise in empathy. Plus, that empathy "builds trust between myself, team members, and future readers, because it's almost as if we all take care of each other." How about?

Where can you leave communication artifacts?

Andrea recommends leaving communication artifacts that impact code and leave a legacy of trust at the following touchpoints:

  • In your code review
  • In your update messages ( commits )
  • In your emails and in your organization's messaging system

3. Think like a copywriter

Writing should be one of the most frequent means to convey empathy - or not - in the workplace. Andrea believes that engineers can also benefit from some lessons from the world of copywriting.

The following are some of the tips from copies to devs:

Keep your tone casual and conversational. Resist the urge to "decorate" your language with outlandish jargon from your professional setting. Andrea believes that the "most effective language is clear, concise and natural."

Never underestimate the power of the active second-person voice. According to Andrea, this is important. To understand the importance, look at the difference between the following two sentences: "An an error has been detected" (passive) and "Sorry, you are experiencing an error." Which of the phrases do you like the most?

Don't make assumptions. "Do not assume that everyone who is reading knows about everything you are writing." Explain the "esoteric concept." "If you're using an acronym" - by the way, I have acrophobia- "spell every word the first time you use it." It's a matter of empathy and accessibility!

"Empathy is what we can optimize when we try to generate a culture of trust." - Andrea Goulet


Andrea Goulet challenges startups to not only embrace empathy as a value but also to treat it as a technical skill. To do this, he recommends starting by getting rid of myths, investing time in creating “communication artifacts” that will help future readers of your code, and finally using EDD to proactively understand your audience and attend to their needs. The result is "cultural and technical gains."


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