Design Thinking

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Empathy Mapping

July 8, 2014
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empathy mapping

When should I use it? What is it for?

The empathy map was created as a tool to help you gain understanding for a targeted persona. Thus you can use it when you want to deliver a better user experience of your product/service. In the process, the exercise can also help you identify the things you don’t know about your users yet so you can carry out new research to fill in those gaps.

How it works

The activity is very simple. You could make an empathy map in less than 20 minutes if you really know your audience.

The canvas’ spaces are designed to visually map the persona. You need to put yourself in the shoes of the person you are analysing and come up with interpretations about how they feel, what they see, what they hear, what they say and does when she is dealing with the product/service you are offering.

Basically, participants will place sticky notes with ideas regarding sensory experiences of the character onto the respective section of the empathy map. You should project yourself into the character and empathize with her.

Who should complete the Empathy Map

Involving other people creates a more realistic outcome. The empathy map becomes more accurate if it is completed taking into account what salespeople see, what communicators listen as feedback and what designers have in mind when sketching for this targeted persona.

Easy steps to create your first Empathy Map

1. Customer Segments. Before you start, you will need to identify which customers you try to serve and define general profiles. Select one candidate for your first empathy map. Give this customer a name and some demographics. You can download our empathy map from the website to use; alternatively it is simple to create your own empathy map.

2. You can now start the map by asking and answering the six questions in each section.


– What do they say and do? In this section, try to imagine what the customer says or how they behave in public. What could they tell other people? Try to capture specific quotes or unusual phrases you might remember from your customer.


– Pain: what are their biggest frustrations? what obstacles stand in their way? which risks might they fear taking?


– Gain: What do they need to achieve? how do they measure success?


 3. Continue to fill all the sections trying to empathise with your character’s world.


– What do they see? Describe what your customer sees in their environment. What does it look like? Who surrounds them? In this case, images speak louder than post-its! Take advantage of your empathy map and use images that convey meaning.

– What do they hear? Describe how the environment influences your customer. What do friends say? Which media channels are influential? You can add links to websites they might frequently visit.

– What do they really think and feel? Imagine their emotions, what moves them? What might keep them up at night? Describe their dreams and aspirations.


  1.  Identify needs and insights.


When the map is full, try to identify needs. Create a list outside the map. Needs are activities and desires with which your user could use help, so it is better to use verbs to describe them. Needs may arise directly from what you noticed or from contradictions between the sections in your empathy map.

You can also write down insights on the side. These realisations may come up due to contradictions between attributes or within conversations among members while completing the map. If you notice a strange behaviour, something that stands out, ask “why” so that any member can come up with remarkable realisations.

It’s important to keep a record of your work. You can come back to your map anytime and keep adding insights and assumptions, especially after observing or talking with customers similar to your profile.

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