Empathy Map

Understand your customer

An Empathy Map is one tool to help you synthesize your observations and draw out unexpected insights.

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What's it about?

An empathy map is a collaborative tool teams can use to gain a deeper 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 is both a framework and a technique, and it’s typically developed collaboratively by a diverse team by placing sticky notes on a wall. If you’d like to download a template of this poster, you can do so here.

Developing a deeper understanding of your customers by understanding:

  • ‍Who they are in their world
  • Where they spend their time
  • Who their friends are
  • Whose opinions influence them
  • What they SAY their deepest aspirations and beliefs are
  • What feelings and beliefs ACTUALLY guide their behavior

Who should use it?

UNPACK: Create a four quadrant layout on paper or a whiteboard. Populate the map by taking note of the following four traits of your user as you review your notes, audio, and video from your fieldwork:

SAY: What are some quotes and defining words your user said?

DO: What actions and behaviors did you notice?

THINK: What might your user be thinking? What does this tell you about his or her beliefs?

FEEL: What emotions might your subject be feeling?

Note that thoughts/beliefs and feelings/emotions cannot be observed directly. They must be inferred by paying careful attention to various clues. Pay attention to body language, tone, and choice of words.

IDENTIFY NEEDS: “Needs” are human emotional or physical necessities. 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.

IDENTIFY INSIGHTS: An “Insight” is a remarkable realization 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 behavior. Write down potential insights on the side of your Empathy Map. One way to identify the seeds of insights is to capture “tensions” and “contradictions” as you work.

Who made it?

Dave Gray

Design Thinker Dave Gray works with senior leaders to help them design more flexible, innovative organizations. His passion is to create real, sustainable change in complex social systems. He helps groups work together to visualize complex challenges, making them easier to see, share and solve, so they can move their ideas and organizations forward. Dave has authored two books on designing change and innovation. His first book, Gamestorming, is a practical handbook for innovators and change agents. His second book, The Connected Company, is a strategic blueprint and roadmap for businesses who want to innovate and lead in the next century. Dave is the founder of XPLANE, the visual thinking company, which was acquired by the Dachis Group in 2010. Dave is also a founding member of Viz Think, an international community of Visual Thinkers, and serves on several advisory boards.

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