Design Right with OtherLeft: How to Add Business Empathy to the Design Process

May 2

Have you ever found yourself presenting your “great” solution to stakeholders after conducting UX research and employing design thinking methodology only to find that everyone is onboard with it? Yeah, me neither. You probably know that feeling of frustration, it feels like slamming your head into a brick wall. You do all this secondary research, talk to users, and become convinced that it’s going to help the users. But nobody cares.

How can you alleviate that feeling and, more importantly, create a solution that will benefit everyone?

Every piece is part of a whole

A concept that the UX community seems to have forgotten is that, while a commercial enterprise can seldom work without customers, it cannot thrive if certain company goals are not met. Businesses that put profit over their customers' satisfaction have been vilified, and those who put the customer at the core are honored. Yet, in reality no business would make profit by ignoring their business goals. We tend to view business and customer value as two separate things, when in reality they are part of a whole.

Put yourself in everyone’s shoes and mean it

As UX Designers/Researchers, we are expected to empathize with the users. Surprisingly, that logic has not really been applied to all people involved in a project. Ultimately, the person who will make the final decision is someone you probably have never interacted with before-a person or a group of people who pay close attention to their business goals. Why try to persuade the executives on the ROI of your solution when you could collect and ask business questions in the research phase? It may feel uncomfortable to approach executives as a designer, maybe because the business aspect is foreign to you or you think that it is not your role. Understanding their business concerns will help you empathize with their worries. This might look like adding another layer of challenges to fix, but who in the UX field doesn’t enjoy solving complex problems anyway?

Get down to business

Knowing which business goals or concerns are on the table can help you craft better questions for the user. Maybe that research will help the business’s customer driven marketing strategy.

Questions you may ask:

  • Tell me about your business model?
  • How do you acquire your main customer segments?
  • Who are your company’s direct and indirect competitors? What are their competitive advantages, and what are yours?
  • What is the market like? If it is a startup: What are the barriers to entry?
  • How are your main competitors doing?
  • How does your company generate revenue?
  • What are some external factors that could impact the profitability of your company?

Asking those questions will leverage your research, and you will increase your chances of presenting a viable design solution that aligns with their business's value proposition, fits with their business model, and works for the different aspects of their business.

In the end, understanding everyone who is part of the project is as important as focusing on the user. Design does not have to be a stranger to business. Ultimately, you want to create a solution that enhances customer experience and addresses business problems, and you’ll have a much better chance to bring everyone on board, hooray! Last but not least, your head will thank you for not trying to break a brick wall anymore.

by Florence Lafite

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