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Empathy Mapping 101

Feature image for empathy mapping

Empathy is at the centre of user experience. And UX professionals should vindicate on behalf of the users to enjoy the delightful and hassle-free product. But UX professionals will not accomplish this goal without understanding their users – how they reason, what they want, and how they perceive. This is where empathy mapping comes into play. Empathy mapping is a valuable tool utilised by UX professionals to visually communicate gathered research data to understand user behaviour, bringing everyone involved in the project on the same page.

An empathy map was created by Dave Gray at XPLANE to limit confusion and miscommunication towards customers or users. This visualisation tool causes the UX professional to identify the user group’s motivation, thoughts, desires, feelings, and needs, focusing on the user group’s requirements rather than their own.

Empathy mapping has two primary goals:
● Establish a familiar perception of the user needs,
● Help in decision making.

While managing user research, one can learn a lot about their users. Through empathy mapping, one can visualise such findings through the behaviour, facial expressions and body language of the users. An empathy map is the representation of that data in a concise format. UX Professionals can use empathy mapping as an excellent way to start understanding their audience.

Here are some benefits of empathy mapping:
● An in-depth perception of the user.
● Discovering vulnerabilities in the research
● Abstracted learning through a visual reference.
● Callouts of pivotal insights.
● Easily customisable, quick and economical.
● Brings the entire team on the same page.

This post will discuss the difference between empathy map and personas, empathy map design thinking, and how to build an empathy map.

So let’s get on with it, shall we? You can also read this entire book, which is a bible of Empathy mapping curated by CXO’s in the industry https://imaginxp.com/product/empathy-and-user-research-book/

Difference between empathy map and personas

difference between empathy map and personas

Both personas and empathy mapping are both tools to get an in-depth understanding of the user, allowing the team to think in a human-centred way to viewing the product from the user’s perspective. Empathy mapping differs from personas as it focuses on revealing the user’s tangible information and experiences. In comparison, personas concentrate on various aspects like interests, personality, environment etc. One must understand that empathy mapping allows them to create fictitious characters based on real users – how they see, hear, say and do things, what they think and feel while doing those things and empathy map pains and gains.

Personas based on empathy mapping are relevant and useful references about the people the product is being designed for. Another important thing is that personas and empathy maps should be created based on user research data. It should not be made-up, as it is a visualisation of actual user attributes.

When built accurately, empathy mapping can help serve as a lean persona:
● Visualise user needs.
● Furnish a Lean UX workflow as a starting point for user experience.
● Easy to iterate by revising assumptions.
● Stakeholders can be briefed based on these maps, which is easier for them to understand.

In this way, empathy mapping is all about tangible impact, making it such a productive tool.

How to Build an Empathy Map?

The empathy mapping exercise is a collaborative process to get the entire team on the same page. Depending upon the team’s size, they can work with either sticky notes, a whiteboard or even a printout.

First, an empathy map has four quadrants: see, think & feel, hear, say and do. There are two columns below these quadrants: pains and gains. The below image can give you an exact idea of what I am talking about. Now let me walk you through the process:

process of empathy map

Creating the map

Introduce the personas that will be used. Allow the team to share any insight or information they know about the user. Next, the team has to collaborate as a group to answer empathy mapping questions. There are several adaptations of an empathy map; however, these are the categories that the team should ideate around:
● Think – Capturing the user’s thought as it relates to the product. Keep in mind that these users are either aware of it, considering it or using it to grasp their thoughts as quotes.
● Feel – Analyse and record the user’s mentality during their journey.
● Perform – Identify the typical behaviour of the users in general or to a specific trigger?
● Influences – Identify the influencers in the user’s behaviour. These could be sources or people they turn to for information.
● Pain points – Identify considerable obstacles a user might run into along their journey.
● Gains – Identify the hopes that the users might expect during their journey with the product. What would success mean to this user?

Sharing the map

Once the empathy mapping exercise is complete, the team should document its finding and make that data accessible to the ones working on content and user experience.

Iterate and refine

The product should evolve as the team can better empathise with the users. Iteration and revision of the product based on new data is always paramount. One could fill in the gaps with new research data that was previously not identified or considered.

Remember, the process of empathy mapping is simple, but it cannot be conducted alone. You can also download a sample of the empathy map shown above in PDF by clicking here.

Empathy map (in) Design thinking

As we understand through ImaginXP’s 5D process, which is a variation of the design thinking framework created by academics and industry experts to equip a candidate for the future better.

5 D Framewor by imaginxp

One must understand that empathy is the first step towards design thinking. Discover is all about exploring the problems and learning about challenges by empathising with users, which is crucial to design a delightful experience. As I have mentioned before, empathy mapping helps UX teams better understand their users – their experiences and motivations while immersing themselves in a similar frame of mind gaining an in-depth, personal understanding of the problems involved.

It is imperative to develop the best possible understanding of the users, their needs, and the problems that underlie the development of the product the team is aiming to design. Empathy mapping will make the team gather ample information and help them set aside their assumptions about the world to gain a better idea about the users and their needs. These experiences and insights can aid the team in building the rest of their design project.

Conclusion
Empathy mapping is crucial for UX professionals as it allows them to truly comprehend and uncover the users’ potential needs and emotions. Solving the user’s problems by interpreting their behaviour and designing a marvellous product based on what the user thinks, does, feels, and says is the difference between good and great UX professionals. Empathy mapping is a tried and tested human-centred approach to understand the user better, ensuring a product puts the user at the centre.

 

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