Published on by Alex Cristache, Director of Design
The speed at which evolution is happening during the digital era is a double-edged sword. The internet has helped bridge gaps between societies and individuals across the globe by providing access to an enormous wealth of knowledge. At the same time, due to its more impersonal nature, it has widened the gap that was once filled by personal, face-to-face relationships and communication. As we accelerate toward the future of digital, businesses need to develop and adhere to a Culture of Empathy. In a user-led digital society, successful digital projects start with empathy.
Daniel Goleman, Ph. D., author of the best-selling “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”, identifies empathy as one of the core aspects of Emotional Intelligence, one that can improve workplace creativity and innovation:
Empathic, emotionally intelligent work environments have a good track record of increasing creativity, improving problem solving and raising productivity.
Daniel Goldman, Ph. D.
The Culture of Empathy as a Digital Strategy
Not long ago the mantra repeated throughout the digital space was: “Content is King”. Back then, disciplines such as Copywriting and Search Engine Optimization were led by “What?”. As we evolve as a digital society, so do our needs. Addressing the “What” has become insufficient. The “What” is now seen as a direct result of the “Why”. User-focused disciplines have taken their spot at the forefront of processes at digital agencies. They now lead the conversations and shape the results of our work. Agencies no longer just design websites; they create User Interfaces and plan and shape User Interactions. They strive to improve the User Experience, and as such the perspective on the digital mantra has shifted to “User is King”.
Google is doubling down on the idea that the “User is King”, User Experience is at the core of the new update coming May 2021. Paired with performance, the page experience and overall user experience will be the main deciding factors in how your website will be ranked.
Understanding the users has become essential for their business acumen and success. Whichever angle you look from, be it business development, project management or production, the answer is the same: Empathy has to become the backbone of your entire Digital Strategy.
Empathy-Driven Client Experiences
Throughout the years agencies have focused on building client relationships. In reality, empathy-driven business development is part of a new paradigm shift taking place. Clients are no longer simply clients or partners. They have become users. They are the users of a digital agency’s expertise, processes, services, and products. Business relationships have become empathy-driven User Experiences which can impact your business development efforts.
“Empathy helps us understand the client's needs and bridge the communication gap between business goals and project achievements.” – Kolja Kristek, Director of Project Management, @CrowdFavorite Click To Tweet
To move a project from prospect to successful delivery through execution, means to go beyond aligning goals to expertise. Digital partners need to understand what drove the beneficiary to them in the first place. What helped the client come to the realization of their current, digital transformational challenges and needs? How will addressing those needs impact their future goals? Empathy provides understanding of not only the scope, but the purpose of a client’s digital initiatives, and therefore guarantees the delivery of the right solutions, setting up a solid foundation for any new project even before it starts. This is where compassionate empathy comes into play, the type of empathy that moves people to act and offer help.
Design with Empathy for Better User Experiences
User Experience (UX) has always been an intrinsic part of product or digital design. Yet, the move to a more digitized world has put UX in an even more prominent role of leading the design process. UX designers use every tool at their disposal to step into the minds of the users: User Flows, User Journeys, Personas, Storyboards. Thinking as users would, feeling as they would, experiencing the same pain points and struggles help designers create engaging User Experiences and effective User Interfaces. UX designers are leveraging empathy to create real life scenarios that lead to educated design choices.
That is not the only role that empathy plays in the design process. In recent years design is becoming a more prominent role within agencies. At Crowd Favorite, Design is an overarching experience. From the first client meeting to project completion, our designers play an integral part in all stages of a project. They ensure that the project meets all stakeholders’ goals from an UI & UX perspective. Maintaining a perfect sync with all involved parties requires designers to focus on empathy in their process. User Interactions are created with empathy toward users' needs and habits. Visual assets are created with empathy toward the next person in line to use them, be it a designer, marketer, or a front-end developer.
Empathy Leads to Innovation in Development
As projects move to their development stages, the challenges developers face multiply. Aligning the client strategy with the project goals, design solution, and user needs becomes their main responsibility. This is where empathy needs to be integrated into agency workflow as it helps developers to:
- Gain invaluable insight into the project needs through requirements documentation
- Identify the most efficient development solutions
- Produce clean, coherent code
- Innovate for specific user needs
Understanding the scope and requirements of projects is vital to the development process. Asking the right questions will lead to clearer specifications and ultimately efficient development solutions. Empathy can help developers identify the right questions to ask during the requirements documentation phase. The foundation of every successful requirements gathering phase is a set of four key questions:
- What are we building?
- Why are we building it?
- Who are we building it for?
- How are we building it?
From this point on, diving deeper with more targeted questions is a matter of being able to identify with your project’s stakeholders and audience. It doesn’t always come naturally, as we’re all unique individuals, but empathy can help you identify the right questions to ask to get in alignment with the goals of your clients.
And since we’re all unique individuals, with various degrees of specific needs, a developer’s ability to gain insight into the habits of users will help them identify the most efficient development solutions and even innovate when faced with edge case scenarios. In short, empathy drives innovation in development.
Our industry does not respect tradition. What it respects is innovation.
Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
Investing in a Culture of Empathy
Digital Experience is going beyond 1s and 0s to focus on the human experience. This is true for both the clients and their customers. By designing, developing, and marketing with empathy, digital agencies are able to provide more than digital solutions and websites. Instead, they can deliver comprehensive, human-focused digital strategies that are essential to the success of the brand.
“As the speed of #DigitalTransformation and innovation continues to increase, it is important to pause, and remember to add the human experience to the digital experience.” – Meghan Goetz, Director of Marketing, @CrowdFavorite Click To Tweet
Crowd Favorite is doing the work to elevate the future of the digital experience, by focusing on a culture of empathy for both client and user experience. We bring established and scaling brands to digital optimization through enterprise-grade digital strategy, design, web development and digital support services. If you’d like help with getting started or need a partner to work alongside you through your digital transformation, please reach out to us.