Have you ever heard of the empathy map canvas? If not, it might just be what you need to boost your customer experience. Even if you have heard of this tool, you might not be familiar with the ins and outs of the activity. Additionally, you might be wondering why it is so helpful, and how you can apply it in your own business.

So, what exactly is the empathy map canvas, and how can you use it in your company? Read on to find out!  

What is the Empathy Map Canvas?

An empathy map canvas is a graphic designed by the organisational consulting company XPlane. It asks questions about what a person says, does, thinks, feels, and more. It can help you develop a sense of empathy for others by understanding their perspective. From a business standpoint, it can also be a great tool for improving the customer experience. 

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What is the Difference Between the Empathy Map Canvas and the Empathy Map?

The empathy map canvas is actually an updated version of the original, the empathy map. While both are helpful tools, the original empathy map was created to complement other exercises in empathy development. Meanwhile, the empathy map canvas is a more complete exercise on its own. There are four main differences between the empathy map canvas and the empathy map: 

  • Incorporated Goals

In the original empathy map, the goals were not a part of the graphic. However, in the updated empathy map canvas, the goals of the exercise are integrated into the visual. This allows your team to clarify the context and purpose of the activity. 

  • Numbered Sections

The canvas is more focused on the correct flow than the original empathy map, which did not include numbers. However, the creators of the map have an intended sequence to follow, which is why sections were numbered in the second version. 

  • Emphasized Difference Between the Internal and External 

In the empathy map canvas, there is a picture of a person’s head, with the “think and feel” section inside the head. This was to place a bigger importance on what outsiders can observe versus what they cannot. You can guess and infer what someone is thinking or feeling, but never actually observe it. 

  • Starter Questions

The updated version also fills out each section with some thought-starter questions to make the exercise easier to facilitate. These questions include things like “What do they see in the marketplace?” and “What are they hearing from colleagues?”

The empathy map was updated into the empathy map canvas for the reasons listed above. Additionally, the creators thought that the original purpose of the map had gotten lost. Many different versions of the map were floating around the web for different contexts and purposes. While it made the creators of the original happy to see their graphic reach such a wide audience, they wanted to make an updated version. This version was one that better defined the purpose of the map while integrating new, important features. 

What Questions Are on the Empathy Map Canvas?

The empathy map canvas is split into seven different sections. Each section has a main question and is followed by further follow-up questions to stimulate thought.  

Who are We Empathizing With?

Section number one asks the above question, before providing thought-starter questions like “Who is the person we want to understand?” and “What situation are they in?” This first question, along with the second one, are a shade darker than the rest of the sections. This is because they are both in the “goal” area, meant to help contextualize the activity in the beginning. 

What Do They Need to Do?

This is the second part of the goal section, which is followed by questions like “What jobs do they want or need to get done?” and “What decisions do they need to make?” By starting the exercise by defining who is being empathized with and what that person wants to do, your team can better understand the goal of the activity. It also helps to keep your team on track throughout the duration of the exercise. 

What Do They See?

This question heads the third section, which takes your team out of the “goal” area and into the main part of the canvas. It is also cleverly positioned directly in front of the eyes of the person in the middle of the graphic. This section asks thought-starter questions such as “What do they see in the marketplace?” and “What are they watching and reading?” 

What Do They Say?

Following the third section, and positioned directly in front of the mouth of the graphic’s person, is this question asking what the person is saying. This includes further questions like “What have we heard them say?” and “What can we imagine them saying?” 

What Do They Do?

The fifth section of the canvas asks what a person does, with follow-up questions like “What do they do today?” and “What behaviour have we observed?”

What Do They Hear?

The sixth section of the empathy map canvas, right next to the ear of the person in the middle, asks what they hear. The thought-starter questions in this section include “What are they hearing others say?” and “What are they hearing second-hand?”

What Do They Think and Feel?

As mentioned before, although you can guess or infer what a person is thinking or feeling, it cannot be observed. As such, the seventh section of the exercise moves into the head of the person. This section is split into two sub-sections: “pains” and “gains.” The pains section provides the thought-starter question “What are their fears, frustrations, and anxieties?” Meanwhile, the gains section asks “What are their wants, needs, hopes, and dreams?”

Who Uses the Empathy Map Canvas?

There are a variety of different people who use the empathy map canvas. Generally, this exercise can improve empathy and allow you to understand the perspective of others. In this way, anyone can use the empathy map canvas. 

In the business world, the canvas is an especially helpful tool. Because it focuses on the thoughts, feelings, statements, and actions of others, companies use it to improve their customer experience. 

For example, your design team might use the exercise to create a more user-friendly experience. It can also be helpful for your salespeople, so they can learn about the customer as an individual and tailor their pitch accordingly. Your marketing team might also use one to create more effective marketing campaigns.

Where Can I Find the Empathy Map Canvas?

There are a variety of different templates on the web. However, you can download XPlane’s empathy map canvas, the one that this article was based on, with this link. Happy empathizing! 

The Bottom Line

The empathy map canvas uses a series of questions to guide you through the perspective of someone else. Asking what that person is saying, doing, thinking, feeling, and more sparks empathy and understanding. 

This might be a helpful tool for your daily life, but it can be particularly beneficial for businesses. If you want to improve your customer experience, you might consider encouraging your teams to use this exercise.

The empathy map canvas allows you to really consider the perspective of your customer on a variety of different levels. This understanding could bring a new light to your product design, sales techniques, marketing campaigns, and more. 

About the author

EWOR is a school conceived by Europe’s top professors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We educate and mentor young innovators to launch successful businesses.

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