Empathy Mapping for Success – Connecting With Users on a Deeper Level

Traditionally, empathy maps are split into four quadrants (Does, Thinks, Says, and Feels) with the principal user or persona in the center. The best empathy maps collect data directly from users and involve multiple team members and stakeholders.

Adapt the categories for your session goals, personas, and available data. Then have the group systematically go through each quadrant.

What is Empathy Mapping?

Empathy mapping is a tool that helps teams better understand the needs of their customers. It is typically used by research, service design, planning, and digital marketing teams within agencies and brands. It can also help to reduce information overload during a project by limiting the number of things that need to be considered. However, it is important to note that empathy maps should always be backed up with data to avoid biases.

The tool consists of four quadrants that work together to allow you to dive into the life of a persona or customer. Each quadrant focuses on what the user sees, hears, feels, and says. It also includes pains and gains, which are the things that worry or delight them. While these can be difficult to determine, it is best to collect as much data as possible during the empathy map session. This will ensure that you are accurately depicting the user’s experience.

How to Conduct Empathy Mapping

Before you start creating an empathy map, you should have a clear idea of who your persona is and a goal in mind. It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the research data. This will help to ensure you get the most out of the mapping session.

Consider inviting stakeholders to the session. This will help you balance your business goals with the needs of the user. In addition, it will encourage stakeholder buy-in of the final profile analysis and marketing strategies that result.

It’s also helpful to use sticky notes for your mapping session. This will allow for easy reorganization of the data and prevent the buildup of irrelevant information. It’s also helpful to cluster notes that convey similar ideas together.

Once you’ve filled out all the sections of the empathy map, it’s time to review and edit. Depending on your situation and available data, you may need to tweak the categories or streamline them.

Creating an Empathy Map

An empathy map should be a living document. Input from users should be gathered often to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date. This can be done through qualitative research as well as direct feedback and observations. Additions can be made to the empathy map using sticky notes or a cloud-based tool. Empathy map police don’t exist, so if your team has a change of heart about a point on the map it’s fine to make changes!

The goal of an empathy map is to understand your user. To do this, your team should divide into small groups, focusing on one persona (e.g., Sally the College Student or Sean the Young Professional). Each small group will work on their own empathy map, then present it to the rest of the team. By dividing the groups and allowing for 10-15 minutes per group, you will quickly be able to gain a wide-ranging understanding of your user.

Using an Empathy Map

While empathy maps are ideally conducted after gathering research like user interviews, in a pinch, teams can create quick basic empathy maps. In these situations, the categories may need to be tweaked for the session goal or persona.

Begin by identifying the key user persona that you’ll focus on. Then, gather customer data that fits this persona. For example, you can use quotes from customer interviews or data from the company’s CRM system.

Once you have a list of data, organize it into the four quadrants of a traditional empathy map—Says, Thinks, Dos, Feels. This will help you analyze your data and understand your users better. Be sure to save the empathy map, especially if it’s a digital one, so you can refer back to it in future sessions. Also, keep in mind that empathy maps are not necessarily definitive—they can evolve as your understanding of your users grows and changes. Therefore, they’re best used as a jumping-off point for your design work.

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