Empathise and Empathy Map in Design Thinking

Empathy Empathise

I’ve included more details about the Empathise and Empathy Map used in the Design Thinking Process.


The first step in the design thinking process is to empathise. Design teams undertake research to better understand their users’ demands. They lay aside assumptions to get insights into the users’ reality through observation and consultation with users. They can better comprehend consumers’ experiences, motives, and issues this way.

Empathise with real people – leave your assumptions outside

To empathise is to investigate. As a result, you should continuously remind yourself to examine what you see rather than condemning it. You should also listen to others with an open mind rather than focusing on things that reinforce your prejudices. Because our prejudices will inevitably seep into how we perceive the world and the circumstances we analyse, we must identify and overcome these biases before they affect our research.

Before you can see through your consumers’ eyes and understand their perspectives properly, you must first become completely objective. They are the authorities. Before you can work towards pleasing people through your design, you must first understand their usage dimensions (e.g., tasks) and their sentiments (e.g., motivations).

How to empathise with getting the right insights

You have a few options:

Observation of actual users

To go from actual observations to abstract motives, ask the following questions:

  • “What?” – You describe your findings.
  • “How?” – You investigate how users behave (e.g., with difficulty).
  • “Why?” – You make informed estimates about the emotions and motives of the users.

Carrying out picture and/or video investigations in consumers’ natural settings.

You videotape these people while attempting to solve a problem you offer to solve with your design.

Individual photo/video journals.

You request that individuals document their own approaches to a problem. These may more precisely represent their pain spots.

Interviewing users

Your team employs Brainstorming to initially identify the appropriate questions to ask in a usually organised and natural manner. Then, in an intimate context where they may reply honestly to open-ended inquiries, you can directly ask people for their thoughts.

Engaging with extreme users

You can please any user if you can satisfy an extreme user. You identify the most extreme situations within your user base to determine the most significant degrees of users’ requirements, issues, and problem-solving techniques. Then you may view the entire range of topics that normal, non-extreme users may have.

Analogous empathy

Your team develops excellent analogies to establish similarities between users’ difficulties and challenges in other sectors. In this manner, you can gain insights you might not have gotten otherwise.

Telling inspiring tales

Your team tells stories about what they’ve seen so you may derive meaning from them and take notice of intriguing aspects.

Empathy Map, Customer Journey Maps and Personas

Your team should have at least one of these as a reference point to understand the consumers’ points of view. Personas are used to create realistic portraits/profiles of people who will engage with your product.

Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the hearts of another  and feeling with the heart of another.

Whatever approach(es) you choose, strive to accurately imagine probable scenarios in which users encounter issues. When your staff keeps aware of your consumers’ reality and is enthusiastic about assisting real people in solving real problems, you will get valuable insights that you can eventually convert into solutions that your users will enjoy.

Empathy Map

Users are more inclined to pick, acquire, and use items that fulfil their needs rather than merely their wants. An empathy map will assist you in understanding your users’ requirements while also developing a better knowledge of the people you are designing. An Empathy Map is only one tool that may help you empathise and synthesise your research findings and uncover surprising insights about your users’ requirements.
The map gives four critical areas to focus on, offering a summary of a person’s experience. Empathy maps are also useful as a backdrop for developing personalities, which you may wish to do later.

The goal of this exercise is not to record every emotional and behavioural element of the person. It’s all about focusing on your target audience and knowing their reality as it relates to your work.

An Empathy Map is divided into four quadrants. The four quadrants represent four essential qualities demonstrated/possessed by the user throughout the observation/research stage. The four quadrants correspond to what the user Said, Did, Thought, and Felt. It’s straightforward to figure out what the user said and did. However, establishing what they thought and felt should be based on thorough observations and analysis of how they acted and responded to various activities, ideas, conversations, etc.

Step 1: Complete the Empathy Map

Empathy Map
Empathy Map Quadrants – Source: Nielsen Norman Group

Arrange the four quadrants on a table, or sketch them on paper or a whiteboard. Review your research/fieldwork notes, photographs, audio, and video, then fill out each of the four quadrants while defining and synthesising:

  • What exactly did the user SAY? Take notes on essential quotes and keywords stated by the user.
  • What did the user DO? Describe the actions and behaviours you observed, or include pictures or drawings.
  • What did the user THINK? Look into it more. Look for their objectives, aims, requirements, and desires?
  • What was the user’s FEELING? What emotions may your user be experiencing? Consider subtle clues such as body language, word choice, and tone of voice.

Step 2: Synthesise NEEDS

  • Using your Empathy Map, synthesise the user’s requirements. This will assist you in defining your design problem.
  • Needs are verbs that refer to actions and wants. Needs are not nouns. Therefore you must describe solutions instead. Directly identify necessities based on the user characteristics you mentioned. Identify requirements based on inconsistencies between two characteristics, such as a gap between what a user says and what the user performs.
  • Make a list of your user’s requirements.

Step 3: Synthesise INSIGHTS

After you’ve clustered your empathy map, you can begin to vocalise and align as a team on your results. What are the:

  • Outliers (or data points that did not fit into any of the clusters)?
  • Themes recurred throughout all four quadrants?
  • Topics can only be found in one quadrant?
  • The gaps in our knowledge?

Look for ways to synthesise important ideas from conflicts between two user characteristics. It can be found in a single quadrant or in two separate quadrants. When you see odd, stressful, or startling behaviour, you can synthesise insights by asking yourself, “Why?” Make a note of your observations.

Tips for a Successful Empathy Mapping Session

Don’t get too caught up in what goes where. Some participants may be worried about placing items in the “correct” quadrant. If you have several groups working on maps for the same user. There will be differences in how people classify things. That’s OK. The objective is to identify with the user, not to accurately classify information.

You can only just investigate what is essential regarding the user’s perceptions of the project objective. The goal of this exercise is not to record every emotional and behavioural element of the person. It’s about focusing on your target audience and knowing their reality regarding your work. Going too broad will lead to a detour.

Adapt the Empathy Map to your own circumstances and need. Change or simplify the categories to match the session aim, persona, or data provided. For example, the study may not have discovered or disclosed sentiments if the persona is a buying manager at a B2B firm. Make any necessary modifications to ensure that the output is helpful and the session is productive.

If not done yet, read the post about Design Thinking. Interested in developing Creativity, visit davidgousset.com

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