How to Empathy Map

What is an empathy map? Well, as you practitioners, it often falls on us to communicate who an end user is, but that’s easier said than done.

Now, an empathy map is a collaborative visualization that lets us depict who an end user is, both as a shared team and then to others. Now its benefits are twofold, so we can use it to create that shared understanding. So we’re all thinking and referring to our user in the same way, and then we can also use it to make decisions. Traditional empathy maps popularized by Dave Gray are split into four quadrants. The first being says this is the easiest. These are the things that the user literally says, whether it be in an interview or to others. The next US thinks now thinks is a little bit tougher because things are those internal thoughts. So what is your user thinking throughout a specific task or goal? And then we have does these are the actions? What is your user doing in order to get the job done? And last we have feels now feels are the emotions the user has as they’re completing that task. When are they frustrated? When are they excited? When are they feeling the most friction? Throughout the process, empathy mapping can be done on your own or with a group. Now it’s real benefits come from doing it in a collaborative way, among other people. I suggest this five step process to get started. The first step being define your scope and goals, decide who your user is and what tasks they’re accomplishing. Second, go gather those materials you’re going to use to make the actual empathy map. You can do this with a big poster and smaller posts and sharpies or remotely on a tool like mural or real time. Number three, go and collect research. Now, empathy mapping is a qualitative approach, meaning you need qualitative methods, things like interviews and direct observation and contextual inquiry and even something like a diary study. You want to bring that research back and then start to empathy map as a group, so forth. I want you to diverge and I want everyone on your team to read through the research and generate different says, thinks, does and feels for an end user. And then number five, converge. All of those different posts start to cluster similar ideas together and name those themes.

So the outcome of this is a shared visualization of who are user is that you can use on your own with a team or even distribute among a wider organization to communicate who an end user is.

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