You want to know what makes a truly great design and a successful product? It’s empathy. It’s not only caring about your clients' objectives, but it’s really about their customers, the end-user. And it's not just about caring, it's about understanding. That's what is going to build trust and that's what is going to make a successful product.
Get to know your client
When a client comes in and says they just want a website because they think they need one, you need to ask them the questions that are going to get inside their head so you understand why it is that they actually want a website.
If you’re a designer like me, you’re already an observer. You’re maybe even a good listener. That doesn’t mean listening to the words that someone is saying, it means listening to the words that they’re not saying, the words they’re using, the way they’re saying them, their facial expressions, the way they interact with others in the room. That’s going to give you a really good indication of who your client is, how they run their business and what their product is. They’re also going to be a key (not the key) in your understanding of their customers.
Become obsessed with their business, their customers, their product, their ethics, their work methods, as if you are actually working in their office. Know all the ins and outs. If you don’t know it, learn. Google. Watch YouTube videos. Without the understanding and the care, you won’t be able to give the client’s customer what they want and ultimately, you won’t be able to give the client what they want. That understanding and that care is what builds trust. Without that trust, your client won’t be able to place their faith in you to go off and create their winning product.
Make empathy part of the process
It doesn’t matter what photographs you use, if the design style is "brutalist", or if your content is above the fold. None of those things are going to sell the product if it's not suited to the end-user. Everything that you design and everything that you create, must have purpose.
Empathy should be guiding you throughout the research process, the design discovery process and the UX process. I know what I want, as someone who breathes the web, but does the target market know that? It’s likely that we don’t want the same things, or we’re not going to interpret things the same way.
Take data that you will have accumulated between the time of launch and review, and see how the end-user is using the product (or, how they aren't). Empathy should guide the review process and the changes you make to improve the product. Your product should be growing and changing with your end-users, too.
Get to know your client's client
Get in the mind of your customer and think about what they would want, how they would get from A to B, what kind of language they would most connect with, what kind of photographs they would most connect with. You see, it’s all about empathy on their side of things, as well.
We all connect with someone or something that speaks to us, that we understand more than the person next to us. This is why it’s imperative that every action and every element must be thought of with the end-user in mind.