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Empathy Mapping in Product Service Design

When building a product or service, it is imperative to put first the needs of your users. Whether you are a Product Manager, Business Analyst, Service Designer, User Researcher or User Experience Designer, you can use the Empathy Map to gain in-depth knowledge of your users to better understand their needs.

Product designers and developers must be able to differentiate between what the user wants and what the users needs, which leads to increased adoption of the product or service.

To begin, what does the word ‘EMPATHY’ mean?

It is described as the ABILITY to UNDERSTAND and SHARE the FEELING of others. It doesn’t stop there, while you understand and share the feeling of others, it must be from the point of reference of the product user. That is, you don’t just put yourself in the shoes of the user, you also wear their outfit and know where it hurts or how good it feels. Understanding the needs of our users, we must also ensure that we can pass this information accurately in the design of a product or service for users.

An Empathy Map is a UX tool that helps designers to unravel real users’ needs. When designing a product or service for a defined persona, UX Designers must be able to prioritize user’s needs; this is a fundamental aspect of Design Thinking. According to Nielsen Norman Group (World Leaders in Research Based UX): An empathy map describes a collaborative visualization model used to articulate what we know about a particular type of product user. It externalizes knowledge about users to 1) create a shared understanding of user needs, and 2) aid in decision making.

Why use an Empathy Map?

In Product/Service Design, there is a high likelihood of failure if you don’t build with the worldview of your user’s needs. Empathy Mapping helps us to develop products or services that meet the needs of our users. It is also useful for:

  • providing granular knowledge about your personas
  • making meaning out of your user research data
  • identifying key insights
  • prioritizing user needs as a common ground for product/service design
  • identifying gaps in existing user research data

An Empathy Map consists of four quadrants: Says, Thinks, Do, and Feels. The four keys show the responses of a user during the research/data gathering phase.

Says: This quadrant contains what users say during your usability study or data gathering. They are spoken words by real users that can be quoted verbatim. You would want to note relevant keywords or quotes said by the user.

Thinks: The Think section captures what the user is feeling throughout the study. You must pay close attention to what the user is thinking but not vocalizing; dig deeper into what are your user’s aspirations, goals, ambitions, desires and dreams.

Feels: Here, you want to highlight the feelings of your users. How do they think? What emotions are your users exhibiting? What does the user’s body language signify? Voice tones?

Do: Here, you describe what your users do physically. You can use images to explain their physical actions capturing their appearance, behaviour and attitudes.

Process: How to Create an Empathy Map

Set Goals: Define your empathy mapping goals and scope. Are you mapping an individual user or multiple users? This means you can either follow the single mapping route or the multiple empathy mapping route(provided you have data for a different set of users/persona). Likewise, it is essential to set the goal for the Empathy map: Are you trying to unravel gaps in your user research? Solidify your team’s knowledge of your users? Ensure the goal is clear from the onset.Gather Materials: You will need materials to use with your teams like a whiteboard, markers, sticky notes and other things as required.

Collect Data: Empathy Mapping requires qualitative data inputs from sources like interviews, field studies, focus groups, listening sessions and surveys.

Start Mapping: Depending on your team size, once the research data/inputs have been carefully studied, each member can start filling out the details for each of the four quadrants on a sticky note which can later be transferred to the Empathy Map.

Synthesize your Findings: You can draw conclusions from your Empathy Map based on collaborative inputs and analysis of each quadrant by your team. This will help you define your design challenge.

User Research determines what product features to PRIORITIZE.

conclusion: introducing the momentum

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