Why use an empathy Map
Good design is grounded in a deep understanding of the person for whom you are designing. Designers have many techniques for developing this sort of empathy. An Empathy Map is one tool to help us synthesize our observations and draw out unexpected insights.
We teach it as a synthesis tool to help quickly uncover latent user needs. By introducing this synthesis tool and others, students are provided with tools to help them quickly go through their notes from needfinding in the field to distill down to what are the golden nuggets of opportunity.
How to use an Empathy MapUNPACK: Create a four quadrant layout on paper or a whiteboard. Populate the map by taking note of the following four traits of your user as you review your notes, audio, and video from your fieldwork:
SAY: What are some quotes and defining words your user said?
DO: What actions and behaviors did you notice?
THINK: What might your user be thinking?What does this tell you about his or her beliefs?
FEEL: What emotions might your subject be feeling?
Note that thoughts/beliefs and feelings/emotions cannot be observed directly. They must be inferred by paying careful attention to various clues. Pay attention to body language, tone, and choice of words.
IDENTIFY NEEDS: “Needs” are human emotional or physical necessities and desires. Needs help define your design challenge.Remember: Needs are verbs (activities and desires with which your user could use help), not nouns (solutions). Identify needs directly out of the user traits you noted, or from contradictions between two traits – such as a disconnect between what she says and what she does. Write down needs on the side of your Empathy Map.
IDENTIFY INSIGHTS: An “Insight” is a remarkable realization that you could leverage to better respond to a design challenge.Insights often grow from contradictions between two user attributes (either within a quadrant or from two different quadrants) or from asking yourself “Why?” when you notice strange behavior. Write down potential insights on the side of your Empathy Map.
How do we teach it?This can be introduced as a synthesis tool to be used after going to the field for needfinding. A method that might be introduced previous to this method is Grouping. Grouping will produce a specific and defined User Group to build a User Empathy Map around. The other option is to do a User Empathy map for one single user. In this case, the words 'User Group' as illustrated below at the top of the map, would be replaced with the User Name or description.
Steps to building the map:
Draw a map on a horizontal surface that displays the following:
2. Populate each section of the map with the following mindsets in each quadrant. On the whole, go for vivid descriptors!:Quotes & defining words-
-Capture specific quotes from the user, as well as any unusual phrases or words that 'struck' you as something that might contain a deeper meaning.Actions & behaviors--Capture things you saw the user (or group of users) doing. Writing down specific details or even drawing out diagrams can be useful here.
Thoughts & beliefs--This quadrant should contain phrases that begin with "I think..." or "I believe..." that were specifically stated by the user. You might also capture other thoughts & beliefs that may not have been explicitly stated but can be inferred from what the user said.
Feelings & emotions--Capture feelings and emotions that the user displayed or talked about having. Capturing feelings and emotions that specific experiences elicited will also be useful here. You might also capture other feelings & emotions that you infer from actions & behaviors that you observed.
3. Reveal needs by using the left hand side of each empathy map to generate a list of use & usability needs. Use the right margin of the map to generate a list of "meaning" needs. Meaning needs relate to how they are feeling and what the experience means to the user as people.
4. Take a step back to examine the revealed needs. Watch for solutions posing as needs--they can be recognized as nouns. Aim for verbs! Reframe by asking "why do we need a [solution]?"
At this point, the User Empathy Map is 'complete' and expanded and ready to be used to fuel the next Mode--Define.
Here is an example of a completed User Empathy Map:
Sample Lesson (50-60 min)
Students will have done some empathy work around their users coming into this activity. You can do a sample empathy map using a user from one of the sample empathy videos if that would be helpful for your students.
Introduce the empathy map (5 min):
-We use this map to collect and organization information about our user.
-Go through the quadrants of the empathy map, explaining what goes in each.
Show sample empathy clip (10 min):
-Tee-up the clip by reminding students what to look for (evidence of what the user says, does, thinks and feels)
Fill in empathy map as a class (5 min):
-Have a few examples ready.
-Call on students to help you fill in the map.
Have students work on filling in their empathy maps for their user(s) in groups (15-20min):
-Float between groups to make sure they aren't stuck and that each student is contributing.
Time permitting: Have students write user needs on the outside of the empathy map (5 min):
-See the visual above for where these should go.
Debrief as a class (5 min)
-How did this go? What could make this activity be more helpful?
It makes sense to follow-up this activity with one that gets the students to a POV statement.
Sample Empathy Videos
Back to Curriculum Home Page