What is an empathy map?

An empathy map is a collaborative tool teams can use to gain a deeper insight into their customers. Much like a user persona, an empathy map can represent a group of users, such as a customer segment. The empathy map was originally created by Dave Gray and has been gaining popularity with the agile community.

Why use an empathy map?

A sample empathy mapping session may be as follows: Assemble your team and have them bring any personas, data, or insights about the target of your empathy map. Print out or sketch the empathy map template on a large piece of paper or whiteboard. Hand each team member sticky notes and a marker. Each person should write down their thoughts on stickies. Ideally everyone would add at least one sticky to every section. You might ask questions, such as:

  • What would the user be thinking & feeling? What are some of their worries and aspirations?
  • What would their friends, colleagues, and boss be likely to say while the user is using our product? What would the user hear in these scenarios?
  • What would the user see while using our product in their environment?
  • What might the user be saying and/or doing while using our product? How would that change in a public or private setting?
  • What are some of the user’s pain points or fears when using our product?
  • What gains might the user experience when using our product?

Have the team members speak about the sticky notes as they place them on the empathy map. Ask questions to reach deeper insights so that they can be elaborated for the rest of the team. To help bring the user to life, you may even wish to sketch out the characteristics this person may have on the center of the face. At the end of the session, ask the team members what insights they learned. More importantly, ask them what hypotheses they now have about the users that they’d like to validate.

When Would I Use an Empathy Map?

Empathy maps can be used whenever you find a need to immerse yourself in a user’s environment. They can be helpful, for example, when:

– diving into the customer segments of a business model canvas
– elaborating on user personas
– capturing behaviors when pair interviewing a customer
– building out the “user” in your user story

User Personas

Personas are fictional characters, which you create based upon your research in order to represent the different user types that might use your service, product, site, or brand in a similar way. Creating personaswill help you to understand your users’ needs, experiences, behaviours and goals. Creating personas can help you step out of yourself. It can help you to recognise that different people have different needs and expectations, and it can also help you to identify with the user you’re designing for. Personas make the design task at hand less complex, they guide your ideation processes, and they can help you to achieve the goal of creating a good user experience for your target user group.

As opposed to designing products, services, and solutions based upon the preferences of the design team, it has become standard practice within many human centred design disciplines to collate research and personify certain trends and patterns in the data as personas. Hence, personas do not describe real people, but you compose your personas based on real data collected from multiple individuals. Personas add the human touch to what would largely remain cold facts in your research. When you create persona profiles of typical or atypical (extreme) users, it will help you to understand patterns in your research, which synthesises the types of people you seek to design for. Personas are also known as model characters or composite characters.

Personas provide meaningful archetypes which you can use to assess your design development against. Constructing personas will help you ask the right questions and answer those questions in line with the users you are designing for. For example, “How would Peter, Joe, and Jessica experience, react, and behave in relation to feature X or change Y within the given context?” and “What do Peter, Joe, and Jessica think, feel, do and say?” and “What are their underlying needs we are trying to fulfill?”

My User Personas for my Digital Product

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