Base your empathy map on real information that you have gathered from users during user interviews. It’s often useful to start by running through each of the four quadrants with your team, adding their research results into each one.
This will help you to remove bias, unearth new insights and align your team on what would resonate with your target audience.
What is an Empathy Map?
An empathy map is a tool that captures and organizes your research data about a specific user. It typically features four quadrants that cover what the user said, did, saw, and felt.
It’s best to use an empathy map at the beginning of a project (following the completion of the initial research and before the creation of requirement or concept deliverables). This is because it provides a bridge between your personas and the actual design process, allowing you to synthesize and uncover deeper insights about the customer that wouldn’t be revealed otherwise.
When you’re done creating your empathy map, share it with your team. Encourage members to add or subtract points from the map as needed. It’s not designed to be an inflexible, permanent document – use sticky notes and cloud-based tools to easily change the map as you progress through the design process. This will ensure that you have a continually updated and comprehensive view of your user.
How to Create an Empathy Map
Before starting to create an empathy map, you should verbalize to your team what expectations are for this exercise and how it will be used. Having a clear purpose in mind for the activity will help to ensure that it is a useful tool and will ultimately add value to your product planning strategy.
Gather your audience research and place it in a central location for easy access by the entire team. You can use a whiteboard, poster pad, sticky notes (Post-it Notes), presentation templates, or digital mapping tools to organize your data and observations.
Begin by dividing the sheet into four quadrants labeled with what a user thinks and feels, sees and hears, and says and does. Using the information from your research, start filling in each section of the map. Make sure to only include concrete, documented data and observations—not educated inferences. Then, cluster similar observations together and identify themes that you can agree on and build upon.
How to Use an Empathy Map
An empathy map is a great tool to keep your design team focused on what users actually want. It is a handy way to analyze user feedback and make sure every feature in your product is based on real needs, not just ingenious ideas that may seem useful.
Empathy maps are best used at the beginning of a project and throughout the design process. They should be based on customer feedback, such as interviews or satisfaction surveys.
The first quadrant of an empathy map is called “does.” It outlines what your user does and how they do it. The next quadrant is “thinks.” This includes what is going through the user’s mind as they perform these tasks and should include qualitative research or direct feedback. The third quadrant is called “sees.” This includes what the user sees and should include visuals from the user’s perspective. The fourth quadrant is called “hears.” This includes what the user hears and should include verbal feedback or audio clips.
The Empathy Map Blueprint
When it comes to product development, understanding users is key. But while market segmentation and customer personas are great tools for getting to know your customers, empathy mapping is the fast-track to truly gaining insight into their needs.
Empathy maps work best when they’re based on actual research data rather than guesswork, and should be used at the beginning of the design process, before requirements and concepting. Ideally, the map-building should be a collaborative activity among teams from different departments.
Begin by identifying the persona for whom you’ll be creating a map. Then, gather the UX research data and create a logical structure around their external observable world (Sees), internal mindset (Thinks), internal actions and feelings (Does), and the pains and gains they experience in their life. These categories become the four quadrants of the empathy map. Once all the information has been mapped, look for common themes and cluster them together. This will help the information to be more meaningful and easier to understand.