How to create an empathy map

An Empathy map is a visual technique that can help you understand your users quickly. Dig into this use case and see how to create one.

How to create an empathy map

An Empathy map is a visual technique that can help you understand your users quickly. Dig into this use case and see how to create one.

What is an empathy map?

An empathy map is a collaborative technique team can use to gain a more in-depth 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 created by Dave Gray and had been gaining popularity with the agile community.

Why use an empathy map?

When creating a product or a service, it is crucial to understand the group of people you are creating for. You want to know what their challenges and problems are, how they are solving these problems now, what their needs are, etc. Empathy mapping is a fast and easy way to help you get the answer to these questions from your target audience.

Example use case of an empathy map

We are creating a product for young adults who live alone and don't have any friends to enjoy meals with. We found Jamie, who fits our target persona, and have conducted a user interview with her. From the interview, we understand that:

  • He just moved into town last month
  • He doesn't have any friends here
  • He is happy that she can eat lunch with her colleagues at work
  • He orders food delivery a lot
  • He sometimes cooks during the weekend but feels too tired to do so after getting out of work on weekdays
  • He sometimes eats alone in some casual restaurants
  • He feels uncomfortable eating alone in fancy restaurants
  • He decides what to eat every day depending on what stands out in her mind
  • He sees enjoying food as a way for her to release stress, and she tries not to care about how much she spends on food
  • He instead eats with someone else than eating alone if she had the choice

Based on the above data we got from the interview, a possible empathy map would be:

How we create an empathy map right within Allo

Work with your teammates

It is encouraged to work with others when creating an empathy map. Invite the teammates who have also interviewed or understand the target users to join the process. It can be helpful to separate the data from different people with different colored sticky notes. After the collaboration, the empathy map might look something like this:

Find patterns and identify the hidden messages

When the empathy map is complete, you can start to identify similar or related data. Group them and think about what the hidden messages may be. For example, supposed three people mentioned that they don't feel comfortable eating alone in fancy restaurants. In that case, you may have the hidden message: there is the social norm of only eating in fancy restaurants when you are with others. With the user patterns and hidden messages you identified, imagine yourself being one of them and empathize with their feelings, pains, and needs.

Reposition the sticky notes to group the similar observations together and find patterns and hidden messages under them.

We can't create useful products or services if we do not understand our target audience enough. Empathy mapping is a handy technique to help us put ourselves into our users' shoes quickly.