Irrespective of their views on the utilization of digital products, the job of a professional UX/UI designer is to be responsible for the delivery of the optimal user experience. But to give the user, the best experience requires understanding the users the design will aim to target. To assist design professionals in this process, they often leverage empathy maps. This post will discuss how exactly UX/UI agencies leverage these helpful tools.
The Empathy Map
One of the keys to formulating a good design is for a designer to put themself in the user's shoes. In other words, it is to gain empathy for the user’s needs. An empathy map is an XPLANE-developed tool that allows designers to view the project through the user’s eyes. Every design aims to solve a particular problem (or several problems), but the quality of how it solves it is very much perspective-based. In the case of an empathy map, the designer can view how the problem is solved from the user's point of view.
The map itself is a diagram with its center representing a particular user segment. The center spawns out to all four sides with 4 separate blocks. The blocks are “see,” “hear,” “think and feel,” and “say and do.” Finally, the presented findings will be placed into two additional blocks: “values and achievements” and “problems and pain points.”
Filling Out An Empathy Map
Drawing up an empathy map entails filling in the block mentioned above sequentially, with each block assigned a number according to the order in which it was filled out. This can be done on printed paper in small groups, but for large teams, it is best to use a marker board or a flipchart. When a map is composed in a large format, it is easy to place sticky notes inside the boxes, then remove and relocate them to other boxes.
Acquiring Data For Empathy Maps
The data that will populate the empathy map comes from information collected about the client’s personal opinions and from their experience. Some of the data will be sourced from the working group’s members, but specialists in different areas will only be able to attribute notes to particular sectors on the map. So for large projects, it is essential to compile a team of employees from different competencies as long as their experience is relevant to the current project.
Additional data can be compiled for the map through social network profiles, forum and community discussions, specialized, high-quality media, and comments in response to various relevant publications. The group members contributing to an empathy map should include representatives from analytics, sales, client loyalty heads, legal, optimization heads, marketing, and account managers.
According to UX/UI design company Clay, drawing empathy maps starts by stating goals and setting focus points for the target audience. This is done by drawing a circle at the map’s center (representing the ‘hero’ of your map’s story). It should be assigned a name and a set of particular characteristics, with the latter being particularly important if more than one map is compiled for the audience.
The template made prominent by Dave Gray, the map’s center already contains the profile of the personification of the individual the team aims to establish empathy for, which should then be adapted by adding emotions and character traits. Additional details can be added as well, and in some cases, the visualization is assisted by putting a photo of an actual character or person in the center. Establishing an empathetic stance will become more accessible by making the map’s profile more realistic.
While there is a risk of getting sidetracked into a more manageable task, like “what do we want this person to do,” it's more effective to ask, “what do we want this user to understand.” This shifts the focus to the action, with the necessary follow-up of asking, “what happens once the user understands our intent?”
The next step is to fill the external blocks sequentially. Each block represents a new sensory experience to our map’s central character. The four blocks each require the team to ask a particular question, then address it in a relevant manner:
What does the user see? This block contains the characteristics of the client’s circle of communication, environment, and opinion leaders.
What does the user say? This block focuses on what the user would say and how the content of those words is relevant to our mission.
What does he do? This block focuses on specific actions like what behaviors the user is currently engaged in, what the user has done in the past, and what other behaviors we can foresee for future activities.
What does the user hear? This block asks what the user hears from others, including colleagues and friends.
Now that the external blocks have been filled out, we shift our docs on how the feelings and thoughts affect the customer’s behavior. The internal blocks include two sectors:
Pains: What are the user’s fears, concerns, and frustrations that would impede them, user, from fully utilizing the presented solution to their problem.
Benefits: What does the user hope to achieve, needs, hopes, and desires from the product?
The distinction between the internal and external blocks is mainly that the external ones represent a user’s experience while the internal ones reflect the inner (emotional and psychological) factors.
Populating the blocks, paired with feedback from various specialists on the team, will allow the empathy map to be used to paint a comprehensive user portrait. If done right, you should come away with the ability to tailor the business of a client to serve the needs and the intents of the users who will be interfacing with their site.