Is your Empathy Map correct? 6 tips to perfect it



As a UX professional, your job is to provide an interface that’s easy to use, attractive and intuitive. And you likely know that to provide the best product, you’ve got to know precisely who you’re making it for. But what do you do when a user persona doesn’t prove to be enough? Enter, empathy mapping.

When you fail to keep the end-user in mind, you fail to make the product the best it can be. Therefore, empathy mapping is a vital part of the job, which helps everyone get to know who they are making the designs for.

We know you’ve been in one of those meetings where you write down what the user says, thinks, feels, and does. It might seem like that’s all there is to making an empathy map. But with the tips listed in this article, you’ll see your empathy maps shape the way you approach UX design.

How Is An Empathy Map Different From A Persona?

You’ve made all your user personas. So you know all there is to know about the user, rather, the group they are representing. Great! Job done, right? Well, not quite.

User personas give you a detailed description of who your user/target group is. They provide information about their personality, jobs, and interests. While that’s very important to know before you set out to design a UX, it’s not really enough.

You know who they are through the persona, but empathy maps tell you exactly what they’re feeling, thinking, saying, and doing. A good empathy map will give you actionable information about how the consumer will interact with your product and what they will feel and think while doing it too.

In fact, both empathy maps and personas should be used together to strengthen each other. The more you know about your user’s needs, the better you’ll be able to meet them.

Empathy maps are essential since they help with the following:

  • Better decision making: An empathy map that leaves a lasting effect will change how your team approaches future decisions for the better.
  • Tackle the correct issues: When everyone understands the problems the end user faces, they know exactly what to fix.
  • Get to know the user: Similarly, they know what features the user will like more since they know who the user is and how they think.
  • Gets everyone on the same page: When your designers, marketers, product managers leave the empathy mapping meeting, they’ll walk out with a great idea of what their user wants and needs. Which will result in more harmony and efficiency.

A team involved in the empathy mapping process will now consider the end-user needs instead of considering the wants of their stakeholders.

Common Mistakes

Before we dive into the tips to make the perfect empathy map, let’s quickly cover a couple of things you shouldn’t do.

1. Don’t map for a group

An empathy map should be primarily made while keeping one person in mind. If you make one for a group, you might end up generalizing. The standard rule is “one empathy map per user persona.”
If you want to make empathy maps for a group, you can create separate empathy maps for individuals and then analyze the patterns to make a combined one.

2. Don’t read minds

The “feels” and “thinks” columns of the empathy map require you to predict what’s going on in the mind of the user, but don’t go too far with the assumptions. Read between the lines, collaborate with your team, and add notes everyone agrees on.

3. Not doing it in the beginning

Empathy mapping will help you the most when it’s done at the very beginning of the design process. Of course, you’ll have to do a bit of user research before the empathy maps to figure out who your user is. After you get to know them, you step into their minds through your empathy map.

When you know what problems you need to tackle before you set out to work on the wireframes, the decision-making will be a lot smoother.

Tips To Make The Perfect Empathy Map 

A few simple practices will make your empathy map help your team a lot more. Let’s get right into them so you can ace them every time:

1. Make sure you listen during the user interviews

Sometimes called “empathy interviews”, this is perhaps the most essential part of the whole ordeal since you’ll be basing your map on this data.

When you’re taking an empathy interview, listen and analyze what the user is doing, thinking, saying, and feeling. Developing your questioning skills can help you find answers to open-ended questions like “how did that make you feel?” or “what do you like about this?”.

Make sure you don’t project any feelings by saying things like, “this feature is good, right?” just listen and analyze the user’s behavior. Your team will thank you for it!

2. Familiarize the team with the user research beforehand

You won’t be filling out your empathy maps with thoughts and ideas you pull out from thin air. You will be writing things down based on research.

Making sure you familiarize the team with the existing user research will get you all on the same page, resulting in a better empathy map.

3. Get the whole office involved

Well, maybe not everyone, but get as many people as you possibly can. Marketers, product managers, or even stakeholders can input valuable data that will help the design team even further. 

Moreover, it will keep everyone on the same page about your end goals, so you won’t have any inter-department fights.

4. Don’t go off-topic

It’s easy to lose sight of the goal and add whatever comes to your mind on the empathy map. After all, you’re writing down what the user thinks and feels, right? That could be anything!

Keep your goals in mind and only add relating information to your map. Everything on the empathy map should give information about how your user reacts to your product, not how they go about their life.

5. Don’t worry too much about following the format

“Does this go under think..or feel?” doesn’t matter! Your goal isn’t to meticulously put the user’s thoughts in the thoughts quadrant and follow the rules strictly.

Don’t waste time on what goes where. You’re doing this to get to know your consumer better. Not to please Dave Gray (creator of empathy map) with your colorful and precise sticky notes you’re putting under the right quadrants each time.

6. Analyze the data collected

You’ve made your empathy map, and everyone goes their separate ways, back to work.

If you don’t analyze the data you collected through your empathy map, the whole process was basically useless. Instead, find patterns, converge the data and theme your findings. That’s where the real magic lies!

Empathy mapping is one of the most critical aspects of design thinking. They allow you to walk a mile in your user’s shoes so you can know just where the holes and cracks are.

Progress begins when your team walks out of the meeting room with a greater understanding of their user than they had before walking in. Once an empathy map is executed well and analyzed, you’ll see the benefits facilitate your entire design process.

Thanks for the submission.