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Empathy Map is a tool employed by user experience (UX) designers and product designers to understand how customers interact with a system or product. A map or diagram represents the thought processes of the customer to analyse their behaviour. 

It helps improve the product and makes it more user-friendly. A typical empathy map is divided into 4 quadrants, with the user at the centre. These 4 quadrants represent the thoughts and feelings of the user regarding the product. 

The 4 quadrants of an Empathy Map

1.     Says – this quadrant comprises everything that a customer says while using a product or service. For example, while filling up a survey about a company’s service, the customer may say, “I found the questionnaire easy to understand.”, or “The questions were too personal.”, and so on.

2.     Thinks – this quadrant includes all information regarding the thoughts of the customer. The contents of this could be the same as that of the first quadrant but it also includes the things that the customer does not say out loud. The customer, while saying that the questions were too personal, may also find them irritating.

3.     Does – this includes all the actions undertaken by the customer: whether they finished the questionnaire, left the web page in the middle of it, went back and forth changing their responses, etc. It consists of the physical activity performed by the customer.

4.     Feels – this quadrant consists of all the emotions experienced by the consumer while interacting with the product. For instance, were they confused during answering the question? Tired of the exercise? Bored or annoyed? The customer can feel oneor all such emotions, and all form a part of this quadrant.

The data contained in the quadrants is not chronological and neither are the quadrants themselves. The customer is human and has a complex set of reactions which can occur simultaneously. Moreover, the contents of the quadrants can overlap since most of the thoughts are related to each other. The division of the feelings in the form of an empathy map is for better understanding the users’ mindset.

Why are Empathy Maps Important?

Customer Centred – empathy maps are important because they make customers the central focus. As designers, personal choices may cloud the end product, but creating an empathy map brings the focus back to the target group and creates a better product .

Understanding Customer Psychology – for a product to succeed, it must please the target audience. Creating empathy maps help in understanding the psyche of the customer base. By collecting numerous scenarios, empathy maps help designers to experience the products as users instead of creators.

Identifying Key Issues – writing all imaginable questions on the empathy maps makes the problems clear. The 4 quadrants collect extensive data about the possible questions and issues that may arise. Addressing these issues reduces the problems in the final product. 

More User-friendly Product – when designers put themselves in customers’ shoes, they find the flaws in the design. Once the flaws are identified, they can be fixed. Thus, creating an empathy map makes it easier for the designers to deliver a more user-friendly product free of errors.

How to Create an Empathy Map

Gather a Team – A single person never creates an empathy map. A team should cover different perspectives since a team will provide variety and mimic the customer base more accurately as the latter is quite diverse in composition.

Create Personas – the next task is to create various user personas to provide feedback. Each persona has a different set of emotions and values according to which they make decisions. The more varied the pool of personas, the better the outcome. 

Create the Map – take a suitable medium – e.g., a whiteboard, and draw the actual diagram with 4 quadrants. Place the user persona at the centre and label the quadrants as ‘Says’, ‘Does’, “Thinks’, and ‘Feels.’ Now every member uses sticky notes to write all possible questions and places them in the relevant quadrants.

Collect and Compare – after collecting the response from all members of the team, organise and review them. This exercise provides varied responses from different personas and helps in addressing any issues which may not have been detected earlier.

Conclusion

Empathy maps are a useful tool to find the optimum design for a product. It helps in removing designer bias from the product. The visual depiction of the problem allows for a clearer analysis that helps in improving the final product.

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