Build empathy by talking to your customers

Speaking with users is a staple of modern product design. Learn why designers are obsessed with customer empathy—and why you should be, too!

Build empathy by talking to your customers

The breakdown

  • There is one universal design principle that can benefit every business—the importance of talking with your users.
  • Talking to your users is beneficial regardless of your domain, and it doesn't have to be complicated.

The design industry is evolving rapidly alongside the internet. As a result, it's constantly in flux. User experience (UX) design reflects this phenomenon. It's widely valued but also widely misunderstood. UX practitioners sometimes struggle to formalize effective long-term processes. And for such an impactful field of expertise, it has shockingly few universal standards.

Designers face a big challenge. It's difficult to shape an uncharted domain with such significant societal implications. But we've achieved near-universal consensus about one thing—our work is better off when we talk to our users. This UX principle stands to benefit other industries, too—including yours.

Design work is most effective when designers connect with the people for whom they are solving problems. That's true regardless of whether they're designing print layouts, mobile apps, or editorial illustrations. Designers possess specialized knowledge, but it's useless if we don't understand the people impacted by our work.

Empathy is a common term in design discussions, with good reason. Design that lacks empathy can still be beautiful, but it's usually less functional. It rarely works in the user's best interest because it doesn't truly address their needs. For the end-user, it tends to feel hollow.

Regardless of your domain, it's important that you talk to your users. Depending on your area of expertise, your 'users' may be customers, fans, or supporters. Start new projects by connecting with these people rather than waiting to collect feedback later. Challenge your assumptions about what they want. Follow up with them to learn more. Invest time into understanding them better, and your product or service will reap the benefits.

Talking to your users offers you a strong competitive advantage. It can help you avoid costly trial and error. And if you're already a pro at connecting with users, look for ways to make your outreach more efficient. There is always room to grow.

One more thing...

Not sure where to begin? Here are some tips to help you get started talking with your users.

  • Leverage your communityYou don't necessarily need to seek out new contacts. Getting started can be as simple as talking more with your current users. Make yourself available to them, and let them know that you're always open to feedback.
  • Start small — You don't have to host a seminar or overhaul your website. Create a light survey for your email list, set out a physical feedback box in your restaurant, or knock on some doors.
  • Don't reinvent the wheel — There are dozens of free tools and resources around the web to help you connect more with your customers. You don't need to invent new methods of connecting with your users. You only need to get started.
  • Be respectful of people's time — Make sure you communicate to your users that you appreciate their time. Consider returning the favor with discounts or other benefits. If the insights you gather result in greater success, make an effort to share that success with the users who helped you along the way.

Venture by Design extrapolates insights from the design industry so that you can apply them to your entrepreneurial ventures. Subscribe for free to follow along!

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