Designing With Empathy | How To Create What People Want

It is a great time to be a designer of any sorts. By now, virtually every company, regardless of industry, is waking up to understands the importance of well-designed products and experiences. There are designers of every subfield being hired at various companies, and many designers can even freelance comfortably (if they hustle!). But is all design good design? A well-designed logo and an engaging color palette is fine and dandy — but how well do these and other elements accomplish a client’s goals or meet a customer’s needs?

And what is the difference between great design and just looking pretty? Design Thinking

(Left ) contains inconsistent placements for CTAs (Right) streamlines where users should click

The Problem of Designing without Empathy

Design Thinking” can be a tremendous problem-solving tool when creating solutions for users of all kinds. If you look at the images above, the layout on the left contains some nice use of images, fonts, and a masonry grid, but there are a few inherent flaws in regards to its design. For one, the Calls to Action (buttons) are located in different areas of the screen and are inconsistently placed throughout the rest of the websiteWith design thinking, it is important to familiarize users with a site’s look through consistent visual elements; that means keeping important colors the same, reducing lateral eye movement, and defining those standards early in the user’s experience.

The site layout on the right does a great job at defining which CTA is more important with the use of the pink and grey buttons. Additionally, the buttons are on the same side with simple backgrounds that do not distract the user from the purpose of the website. This snippet of the entire website begins to show the proper decisions a designer should take to create a quality user experience. But how might you design a process that allows you to fully understand the best means of meeting a user’s needs?

As a front-end specialist, I firmly believe that the secret to a great design is all in its approach. I’m sure most people reading this probably have heard some of the techniques that I will mention, but I feel that few people, teams, corporations actually do a good job in sticking to a design system.

When tackling design projects, I take an approach similar to what method actors use when preparing for their roles. Even before a contract is signed or a deposit has been sent, I begin an extensive research process so that I can try to understand my client’s point of view. Before I can ask the proper questions from the client, I need to understand the nuances of the client’s brand and business. This allows me to better communicate with the client about where problems may lie.

Design is used to tell stories in a more stimulating way

The goal of what I call the “discovery period” with a client is to gain confidence in making design decisions that align with the goals of the client. To achieve that level of “enlightenment”, there are a few questions I need to feel confident in answering:

  • What is the client’s goal for the business or brand?
  • How does this project align with that vision?
  • What is the story trying to be told here?

With this foundational knowledge, I then can map the customer’s journey. Keeping in mind that the solution I am creating for the client is only a piece of the user interaction is crucial to fully understanding what people want. This includes testing the user flow from, for example, Facebook Ad to contact form submission. The best way to get this information is to actually talk to current or potential users.

User test early!

“The product roadmap lives in the minds of the users” — Brian Chesky

Once empathy for the client has fully been built, then the rest of the design process falls into place. It is easier to define a problem and design a solution when one can understand and empathize with the client. Some people abandon parts of this system because it feels like a waste of time (it will feel like that sometimes), but I can argue that it saves massive time in the prototyping and product testing phases. The idea is to understand the need so a well-designed solution can be created with the proper vision. In fact, some predict that whole industries, like management consulting, will face radical transformation as design becomes increasingly important to business processes. (link:

Read this article of Medium: Design Thinking Article on Medium

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