User empathy mapping is a key activity that helps align the entire team—including designers and stakeholders—around the users’ experience and hone in on the fact that your product is just one part of a larger ecosystem of variables.

Creating an empathy map

Start by listing what your users are thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, doing, etc. while using your product. What else is going on that will affect their workflow?

A whiteboard during an Empathy Mapping activity. In the middle of the whiteboard is a smiley face. The space around the face is divided into 5 sections labeled Seeing, Thinking and Feeling, Hearing, Pains, and Gains. In each of these sections are a number of yellow, purple, and pink sticky notes.

Although empathy maps can be a way to organize discovery research, they can also be equally beneficial as part of a kickoff workshop. Done early in a project, empathy mapping can help designers get familiar with the product and ecosystem. It helps establish a working theory about users, which may be proved or disproved during user research.

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