Empathy mapping allows designers and researchers to get inside their customers’ heads, enabling them to make customer-oriented decisions throughout the design process. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll teach you how to do just that!
To begin, the team leader draws an X on a whiteboard and labels four spaces: think and feel, see, say and do, hear. Then, the team fills in each space with customer feedback.
1. Define Your Purpose
Once you have a clear purpose in mind, gather the research that will fuel your empathy map. This can include anything from user interviews and field studies to heatmaps and surveys.
Be sure to focus on qualitative research, as this will give you a better understanding of your users’ thoughts and feelings. Also, be sure to stay on topic; don’t include information that is irrelevant to your design goal or problem.
Once your research is complete, compile it into an empathy map using a whiteboard or large flip chart and sticky notes for each of your user segments (e.g., Sally the college student and Sean the young professional). Then, have your team members read through each segment and add their thoughts to the map in four quadrants.
2. Conduct Research
The best empathy maps are drawn from real data, so try to collect information about your users from direct interviews and observations. User interviews are the most effective way to gather qualitative data, but other methods like heatmaps and surveys can also be useful.
During your research, note down anything you discover that may be useful for building your empathy map. For example, if you find out that a specific customer loves cats, write this down in the’says’ quadrant of your empathy map.
Other helpful data to include are influences (people the persona relies on for information), pain points (considerable obstacles that the product might face), and gains (what they hope the product will achieve). However, remember that empathy maps are not set in stone. Add to them as necessary.
3. Create Your Personas
Using real data, empathy maps show how a user sees a situation and make you more sensitive to what their perception is like. They help you build a more detailed understanding of the people who will use your product.
A basic empathy map typically uses research notes gathered from user interviews. But you can also create one based on existing knowledge or your team’s experience with your target audience.
Set aside 30-60 minutes to build the empathy map with your team. Ideally, you want to include t-shaped teammates (UX person, Product Manager, Developer, Marketer) as they will be able to bring a diverse perspective to the process. Having a moderator to facilitate the session helps to keep everyone on the same page throughout the session.
4. Conduct a Brainstorming Session
Once you have a clear purpose and research in hand, conduct a brainstorming session with the product team to create empathy maps. Make sure everyone involved in the project is present for this session to ensure that the teams are on the same page with their research findings and goals for the design process.
Have a whiteboard, sticky notes, and markers available to help streamline the mapping process. Use this time to gather as much relevant information about your user as possible. This is the time to eliminate any assumptions and biases you may have about your users.
Start by clustering the sticky notes and identifying prevailing themes. From there, start filling in the map with the following four quadrants: See, Hear, Say, and Do.
5. Create Your Empathy Maps
An empathy map is a simple tool, but it packs a punch. With the user or persona in the center, an empathy map arranges all of the research you’ve collected into an easy-to-read visual. The four categories outlined in the empathy map—Says, Thinks, Does, and Feels—provide an accurate picture of your user’s external world and internal mindset.
While the process of completing an empathy map may seem cumbersome, it’s crucial for understanding your users and helping them find value in your product. It can also identify gaps in knowledge, which can be the inspiration for future research or design. Make sure to update your empathy maps as you conduct new research. The result is a powerful visual that can help guide your team throughout the design process.