Empathy Mapping

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The Empathy Map is a research tool that can be used at the beginning of a project to engage with stakeholders and font end users alike.

As designers, we see a process or problem with the educated eyes of what’s possible. But first we must create a baseline of understanding to know the starting point of change and the appetite for change in the environment that the front end users live in.

To design something that will have impactful change you will need to discover the real reason of ‘why‘ people do what they do. Using an Empathy Map, you’ll discover hidden gems (based on human and behavioural needs) and get the full picture to truly understand the reason behind the action.

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.

These needs will speak directly to the functions and benefits that you’ll address with your solution.

IDENTIFY INSIGHTS: An “Insight” is a remarkable realisation 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 behaviour. Write down potential insights on the side of your Empathy Map.

These insights will speak to the simplicity and usability needs your solution will need to address.

There are really three avenues to innovation or in the simplest form – making peoples lives better.

  1. Relieve pain (process change, transparency of information and sharing of knowledge)
  2. Streamline (front line and end users current methods to make their life easier)
  3. Provide new options (to add the above and possibly create new revenue streams)

The Method:

Ask your workshop participants…

What’s the most important large task that you do within your role?

This will give you a view to the thing that the participants are the most passionate about and be willing to talk about.

While doing that task – What do you say to yourself or others? Do you say good things, bad things, talk about how complicated or easy that task is?


When other people do the task or tell you how or where or why to do that task – what do you hear them say? Is the instruction clear? Do you understand why the task is being done?


While completing that task, what do you see within the system or workplace? Describe the systems / processes you use. Is the information presented in a clear and easy to understand way. Do you have easy access to the information or people you need?

What you should know after completing this

  • The needs and pain points of both the use and the business and the user
  • Some features and benefits your solution needs to encompass
  • Some Jobs to be done
  • One or more personas
  • The scope for a scenario in which to create a Service Design Blueprint to map out the next level of detail of interactions
  • The ‘Change’ champions and the front end users who you want to return and test with

As always this is my interpretation and I’d love to hear other peoples. I like to keep the conversation open so I recommend twitter. You can reach me  @jthoyer

Other sources in longform:

Empathy mapping v2.0

View story at Medium.com


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