# Empathy map

# Phase: 🔎 Problem seeking
Focus: Empathize


Time commitment: 1/2 to 1 day (more if large sets of information to cull from)
Difficulty: Easy/moderate
Materials needed: Existing user insights gleaned from interviews or data-gathering, space (physical or virtual) for mapping, map template
Who should participate: User experience designers, project/product owners, commmunity specialists
Best for: Creating a structure for talking about users, which can then be used for personas and other similar artifacts

# About this tool

Empathy maps are a systematic way of visualizing users' behaviors and attitudes in a way that can help us both move toward a deeper understanding of archetypal users and underscore any gaps in our foundational research. Empathy maps are usually split into four quadrants (says, thinks, does, and feels), with the user represented at the axis between the four quadrants.

Basic empathy map sketch

When creating an empathy map, consider both a specific archetype of user (say, expert developers who lack topical knowledge of peer-to-peer principles) and a task related to your product or service (installing software packages on firewalled internal networks). Then, brainstorm to set down statements or stickies in each of the four quadrants as follows:

  1. Says refers to what a user might say out loud when speaking with you in a user interview about a question or task related to your product/service. If you've got concrete examples or quotes from actual interviews, so much the better! For example: "It's more important that this service be reliable than it be fast."

  2. Thinks contains what a user might be thinking when using your product or service to achieve the task under examination. This might be the same content as what appears in the Says quadrant, but it may also include items that an interviewer may think but decide not to vocalize, like "Why can't this be both reliable and fast?" Statements like this are the most relevant ones in the Thinks quadrant, because they can provide valuable insight if you dig into why a user might be reluctant to share such items.

  3. Does includes the actions a user takes in relation to the question or task at hand. This information can be gleaned through a variety of sources, from user interviews to passive analytics data, and insights can be gained by matching these actions with the items noted in the other quadrants: for example, when combined with the statements in the Says and Thinks quadrants, heatmap data indicating users spend time hovering over a progress bar would be particularly valuable.

  4. Feels refers to the user's emotional state. Items in this quadrant can be easily gleaned from empathy interviews or other research mechanisms with an empathetic component. For simplicity, it's easiest to state these items as an adjective plus context: "Impatient — downloading takes too long."

Once you've assembled an empathy map, take some time to look for juxtapositions (or, alternately wide differences) between quadrants, and use these to assemble wish lists for future research or even problem statements on which to iterate for solutions.

Additionally, a well-crafted empathy map has one additional benefit: Once you've completed it, you're well on your way to the information you need to generate a persona for a particular user archetype. In fact, IBM's Enterprise Design Thinking group regards empathy maps as "quick and dirty personas" that can help you think systematically about users without going through a full persona exercise.