Creating an Empathy Map

Creating an empathy map

Purpose Of the Guide

This guide will take you through the process of creating an empathy map as a way to synthesize the insights gathered during the discovery phase.


An empathy map is a visualization tool which helps you sum up what you learned from design research to help you better understand your users and articulate what you know to colleagues and stakeholders.

The map provides four major areas in which to focus your attention on, thus providing an overview of a person’s experience. Empathy maps are also great as a background for the construction of the personas that you would often want to create later.

The map consists of four quadrants. The four quadrants reflect four key traits which the user demonstrated/possessed during the discovery stage. The four quadrants refer to what the user: said, did, thought, and felt.

It is fairly easy to determine what the user said and did. However, determining what they thought and felt should be based on careful observation and analysis of how they behaved and responded to certain activities, suggestions, conversations, and so on.

Brief Overview Of Key Concepts

Insight refers to a remarkable realization that can help you to solve the current design challenge you are facing.


1. Fill Out the Empathy Map

Lay the four quadrants out on a table, draw them on paper or on a whiteboard.

Review your notes, pictures, audio, and video from your research/fieldwork and fill out each of the four quadrants while defining and synthesising:

  • What did the user SAY? Write down significant quotes and keywords that the user said.
  • What did the user DO? Describe which actions and behaviours you noticed or insert pictures or drawing.
  • What did the user THINK? Dig deeper. What do you think that your user might be thinking? What are their motivations, their goals, their needs, their desires? What does this tell you about her beliefs?
  • How did the user FEEL? What emotions might your user be feeling? Take subtle cues like body language and their choice of words and tone of voice into account.

2. Synthesize Needs

Look for the following within your data to identify your users’ needs:

  • Verbs, that is, activities and desires. Mark and analyze any pieces of data that start with a verb as these are likely to contain or point towards a user need.
  • The user traits you noted. Mark specific user traits as these will lead towards the true needs of your users.
  • Contradictions and inconsistencies. Once you have picked out the users’ traits, you should look for contradictions and inconsistencies between them. For example, there may be a disconnect between what a user says and does, or they might show a positive action but portray a negative emotion through a quote.

Write down user’s needs.

3. Synthesize Insights

Look to synthesize major insights, especially from contradictions between two user attributes. It can be found within one quadrant or in two different quadrants.

You can also synthesize insights by asking yourself ‘why?’ when you notice strange, tense, or surprising behaviour.

Write down your insights.