As a DM it is important to keep communication with players to make sure that the game is the best it can be. There are lots of things that a DM needs to keep track of and sometimes communication is passed over. Whether it is at the table or though just talking with your players over coffee I cannot stress how important it is for a dungeon master to have an open line with their players. It is important to take notes, even if its a quick jot to make sure that you can remember what was said and writing things down shows that you actually care and find player input important. I tend to try to keep a journal open or a google doc open so things can be taken down in the middle of the game if something important is said or if there is something I want to address later.
As a DM I try to keep track of player information in a google doc that I can continue to add more things as players develop their characters. I have it into three categories: What the character looks like and basic info. Next is what I know of the backstory, followed by what are the player's wants in game. A DM is a resource to help players and can help provoke thoughts about how the players will want to use their characters and help integrate them into the world and campaign the DM builds.
When it came to my Pathfinder game I had my players fill out a character web that included name: inspirations, pet peeves, personal goals, fears, hopes and their bucket list. These details allowed me to make encounters and character based story arcs to add into the campaign to make sure that each person had something unique to them going on. At the bottom I had faults/flaws, their description of both personality and physical appearance and their common behaviors. If the player had any NPC family or NPCs who are important to their story arc I also made sure that a NPC character sheet was attached with their player notes.
Google forms and google drive has been a great place for me to keep track of communication. I have created a google form for each section of the campaign listed below. It allows players to give me information that can help provide a better game experience that is unique to their wants and needs.
Beginning of Campaign
On this form I put the basics of character name, race, and what class(es) are they planning on taking.
This is where I also ask for details about characters: background story ideas, character fears, pet peeves, any character regrets, two rumors and a lie about their characters that could be spread and any existing enemies or rivals the characters may have prior to adventuring.
I also have players mark all of the things that are important to them that they hope to find in the campaign.
Middle of Campaign
This is when I ask them what are they happiest about the campaign and what they wish was different.
I have players update me on on what is their PC's current character motive.
I also ask what details about their backstory they hope to have played out.
I ask what is one thing that the player has always wanted to do in D&D, but never been able to do before and would really like to try.
At this point of the game they should be high enough level to have magic items or go in areas that could have items. I ask players what is their top 3 magic items they wish they could have/find.
End of Campaign
This is where players tell me if their character lives to the end, what do they see themselves doing after they stop adventuring?
Are there any other backstory things you would like to wrap up?
During the Game
While playing the game, it is important as the DM to give the players all the information that they could want or need. Whether it is giving killer descriptions to rooms, giving details to the world or even making sure that players have everything they need to make the best decisions possible.
At the end of the session I usually ask "Any questions, comments or concerns" to make sure that the players are able to communicate with me thoughts that they had about the session. Even if they don't say it over the voice chat or at the table they know that they can send me a private message as well.
The Dungeon Master is also the person who has to establish rules and boundaries at the table. It's important that they know the play styles of those at the table and be able to help smooth over any conflicts that players come across during the game and make sure that everyone feels comfortable .
I have open communication for my players using Facebook, Discord, and Roll 20. I have the messages up during gaming so players can ask me things, "whisper" things, or ask for clarification on things that are going on.