Designers have empathy for users, but what about stakeholders? Here are 6 ways to practice stakeholder empathy:

March 3, 2023

UX designers know that a key element to building any great digital experience is to have a deep understanding of the users. Designers gain empathy for users through research and by walking in their shoes in order to better understand how and why they interact with various digital products. Empathy in turn allows a designer to take the user’s perspectives into consideration throughout the product design cycle. Designers could benefit by extending their “empathy lens” to their surrounding stakeholders as well.

Stakeholders come in many forms: product managers, project managers, developers, marketing, leadership, finance, and operations to name a few. Stakeholders are often juggling many different priorities; from budget and resource constraints, customers with new feature requests, and pressure from their higher ups. Depending on the design maturity of any particular organization, stakeholders may not fully understand the UX design process. In order to build empathy with stakeholders, it's important for designers to put on our UX researcher hats and walk a mile in the their shoes before and during the product design process.

6 methods to practice stakeholder empathy:

-Include stakeholders in design from the beginning. Asking questions around their concerns, ideas, business goals, organizational initiatives, KPIs, etc. can then help designers build a collaborative relationship with stakeholders that helps to facilitate UX design.

-Communicate the logic and reasoning behind designs through the user's lens so stakeholders understand design is for the users, not them.

-Share designs early and often. Providing transparency into the design process helps stakeholders better understand UX and why certain designs are used.

-Be aware of the language used when sharing designs with stakeholders. When working with a stakeholder, avoid using UX jargon and technical language.

-Listen and respond to their input, feedback and ideas around design. Designers don't have to utilize their feedback to directly inform designs, listening does however build trust and shows their input is valued.

-Be flexible and adaptive to changes in process and timelines. People, budgets, and timelines can all change throughout a project, these are always times to remind yourself to be empathetic.

Written by Alex Smith, Co-Founder and Head of Partnerships