Empathy map – how to crawl inside your users head

Can you use design thinking to understand your relations? Empathy mapping is a method to get deeper insights about other people and find out what they really think is relevant – a tool for you to relate too and create the best solutions for your user.

Empathy mapping is a method, a tool, taken from the design thinking toolbox. Design thinking is an approach that uses elements from designers' way of working to develop innovative solutions. For example, there are different ways to understand your target audience, user needs, methods for generating ideas and to test ideas early with the users – empathy mapping is one of those tools.

Why empathy map matters?

Why should we practice our empathic skills? To empathise with your target audience and understand their needs you’ll be able to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they think, feel, say and do. When you know their motivations it’s much easier to give them what they really need.

An empathy map is also a great collaborative visualization method to show what you know about the user or specific target audience group. When you visualize what you know, it is easier to create a shared understanding of users needs that helps when taking decisions and get people onboard.

When working with user-centered design, empathy maps are best used at the very beginning of the design process. It’s a perfect way to make sense and categorize your qualitative research such as notes, qualitative survey answers or interview transcripts. Can’t answer all quarters in the map? Well then it’s a strong signal that you need more user research before proceeding in the design process.

For whom?

Empathy map is a tool to empathize with the user and understand target groups. It’s a tool to try to put yourself in someone else's situation and understand what they Think, Feel, See, Say, Do and Hear and what drives them. That’s why this method can be used in a various range of businesses, everything from startups, companies to organizations. You can also use it to help your team understand their users and prioritize their needs or just to deeply understand the persona you are targeting.

Empathy map

The format undefined

An empathy map is divided into 4 parts. It’s a quick and digestible way to illustrate user attitudes and behaviors.

The Think and Feel captures what the user is thinking throughout the experience and it’s emotional state. What’s the major preoccupations, worries and aspirations? How does the user feel? Try to understand why the user doesn’t put their thoughts and feelings in words – unsure, afraid or maybe self-conscious?

The Ssee quadrant contains how the user sees and understand its environment. What is happening around them? What does the market offers in the situation? How’s the attitudes from friends?

In Say and Do you’ll answer what you’ve heard the user saying out loud, what we can imagine them saying and what actions the user takes. From the research, what does the user do and what quotes are used?

The Hear part is about what the user hear other people saying about the situation, what do they hear from friends and from colleagues? What influence them and what do they listen to from media?

In the bottom you synthesize your findings in Pain – users fears, frustrations and obstacles – and Gain  – the users measure of success, needs and desires.

Sometimes these fields may seem to overlapping. Try not to focus too much on being precise: if an item may fit into multiple parts, just pick one. The 4 quadrants exist only to push our knowledge about users, think outside our own box and to ensure we don’t miss any important dimension.

How you use the empathy map

  1. Define Purpose and Persona – who are you targeting and why.
  2. Do your research. You’ll need Qualitative inputs such as field studies or interviews.
  3. Prep your material. Post-its, Pens and access to whiteboard or a large wall to put the map on. Use big paper or directly on the whiteboard.
  4. Always start with a 1:1 mapping (1 User/Persona per Empathy Map). This means that, if you have multiple personas, there should be an empathy map for each.
  5. Answer and cluster. Individually read the research and then fill out sticky notes that align to the four areas. After that, start clustering the answers together. Ask Why, Why and Why when you’re answering the questions.
  6. Share your map when done with the team and everyone you want onboard.
  7. Iterate and Improve. Empathy develops over time. Develop further and revise when needed.

Empathy matters?

We can help you get your colleagues onboard, do the research to understand your user and customer and guide you towards meaningful innovations.

June 13, 2018
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