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The Empathy Map: A Tool to Bridge the Gap Between Designers and Stakeholders

Written by the
The BTNG Design Team

Empathy Maps are a tool that can help bridge the gap between designers and stakeholders. They provide clear, actionable insights for product managers to use when collaborating with their team members in design. They allow us to see things from other people's perspectives, which is an important step in achieving alignment on projects. Empathy Maps will also help you create products that will resonate more with your target audience. In this article, we'll explore what an empathy map is and why they're useful for anyone looking to improve their user experience design skills.

About the BTNG Design Team

Thinking like a designer can renovate the way businesses create and develop their product offerings, processes, services, and strategy. It gives amateurs who cannot utilize creative tools access to tackle a wide array of challenges.

Table of Content

What is an Empathy Map?

An Empathy Map helps team members gain an understanding of user needs and helps them better translate those needs into product requirements. Designers use empathy maps to create a shared understanding between themselves, their team, and the people they're designing for by mapping out what users need to do something or accomplish a goal.

It gives insights into the following areas:

What does a stakeholder think & feel?

  • What is a customer thinking or feeling?
  • What is he worried about or scared for?
  • Is he satisfied? Why is or isn't he?
  • What are his dreams and aspirations?
  • What causes an emotional reaction with him?

What does a stakeholder see?

  • Does he spend more time inside or outside?
  • What do his surroundings look like?
  • How does he interact with his surroundings?

What does a stakeholder say & do?

  • How does he present himself in front of others?
  • Which words does he use?
  • Which information does he leave out?
  • What's the difference between what he says and how he acts?

What does a stakeholder hear?

  • To which (social) media does he listens?
  • Which newspapers or magazines does he read?
  • What are the topics of conversation at his birthday parties?

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It's fair to assume that higher up in the food chain, people have less interaction with their customers. It's also fair to assume that the closer one is to their customers, the better understand what pains and gains are important.

Pains & Gains

Within an Empathy Map, there are two more topics we address — Pains & Gains.

  • Pains are things that are difficult or challenging for a stakeholder.
  • Gains can be anything that a stakeholder desires to achieve, whether it's tangible rewards like money or more intangible feelings of self-worth.

Within the design process, we often forget about Pains and Gains because they are subjective. This is great because when they are subjective, they are more valuable because it means that the stakeholder is invested, and cares about the outcome of a project.

The Empathy Map helps designers to capitalize on these feelings by discovering what Pains & Gains were important to stakeholders in order for them to be successful with their projects.

What is the value of an Empathy Map?

An Empathy Map is a tool that allows designers to uncover what pains and gains are important to stakeholders, so they can produce better products. This increases the likelihood of designing a product or service with an increased return on investment.

The value of this strategy for design teams is immense as it bridges the gap between different levels in organizations. It's fair to assume that higher up in the food chain, people have less interaction with their customers. It's also fair to assume that the closer one is to their customers, the better understand what pains and gains are important.

An Empathy Map can help bridge this gap by providing stakeholders with a means for communicating about pain points in their product or service offerings where customers struggle.

This makes it quite simple to express the value of an Empathy Map: Imagina that your whole team (or even organization) talks the same language and has a shared understanding of your customers and their needs! Wouldn't every idea be more customer-centric and therefore more valuable?

What are the risks of not using an Empathy Map?

Now that you have a better understanding of what Empathy Maps are, let's see if we can create an even deeper understanding. Not about Empathy Maps, but about the Mapping Process. Armed with boxes of sticky notes, the BTNG Research team can help with User Research.

Not a single Empathy Map should be created without understanding the user's emotional state.  In order to do this, the Empathy Map is carefully and deliberately designed.

The process starts with an interview of your customer or potential user that will be mapped. The questionnaire asks some open-ended questions about their thoughts on a product you might create for them and they are provided with prompts to answer about what they would like to see in that solution.

See where we're going? Without doing the user research for your empathy maps, the empathy map itself becomes a collection of assumptions. But without an empathy map, you're only creating solutions that you think would work. Making them biased.

How do I introduce Empathy Maps and Empathy Mapping in our organization?

Great! That's where we come in. BTNG has over 15 years of experience helping organizations adopt the Design Thinking methodology.

The first step is to do some initial research and find out what the pain points are for your organization.

BTNG has a discovery phase where we spend about two weeks researching with stakeholders, designers, developers and anyone else who needs to know how Design Thinking can help them solve their problems. Then we draft a plan that includes Empathy Maps to collect user's thoughts, user attitudes. These are great insights to create a user persona (or multiple personas) and map empathy.

If needed we can always do more user research with qualitative data (like user interviews) and help you with Journey Mapping!

Sorry, we're getting excited just thinking about it!

If you're considering introducing Empathy Maps in your organization, we'd love to help. Our process is very simple. Just Schedule A Call and we'll tell you how we can collaborate.

We'd love to introduce ourselves, give a short presentation or even a small workshop to demonstrate (and convince) people about Empathy Mapping.

Use our BTNG Empathy Map Template for your User Research!

Want to give Empathy Mapping a try for yourself? We have an Empathy Map Template available that we'd love to share. All we ask is that you include the right team members for the creation of your first Empathy Map! If there's one thing you've learned from our article (and we're hoping for a lot more), you'll understand that figuring out the user needs isn't something you can do without talking to that same user.

So go ahead, start Empathy Mapping today! Dust off those sticky notes and start scheduling user interviews!

User-friendly solutions delivered by user-friendly people. Discover opportunities, find your focus, see results.