A lesson in empathy from Aaron Gustafson
Aaron Gustafson began his talk with a definition of empathy: “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. He then went on to break this down in terms of what that actually means and what we need to do in order to be empathetic throughout our design process:
“Empathy requires us to observe”
“Empathy requires us to ask questions”
“Empathy requires us to listen”
“Empathy requires us to use intuition”
“Empathy requires us to be patient”
I’d immediately assumed Aaron’s talk would be focussed solely on user insights and the iterative design process, but then he actually moved on to talk about the clients, and how we should also apply these statements to our conversations with them to ensure we arrive at the right decisions for the right reasons.
As an example, Aaron said, “If a client says they want to change the size of a CTA, ask why; find out what it is about size they dislike, understand their reasons.” His example, albeit simplistic, reminded me that we can sometimes feel compelled to immediately change a well thought out solution based on negative client feedback. But we have to remember that there was, in fact, logic behind the original decision: that it would improve user experience or conversion.
It is often too easy to blindly agree with the client and make amends in order to move on to the next thing, particularly when you’re working toward final sign off on tight deadlines. However, understanding the client and, more importantly, understanding the reasons behind their feedback, means we’re more likely to settle on the most effective solution possible.