Design thinking—

A cheat sheet to empathy mapping + free template

According to Accenture, an empathy map is a “collaborative tool teams can use to gain deeper insight into their customers”. As empathy is a key component of design thinking, is most effective when used after user research but before concepting. This blog post covers the different steps to empathy mapping, including a free template to follow along with.

4 min

According to Accenture, an empathy map is a “collaborative tool teams can use to gain deeper insight into their customers”. As empathy is a key component of design thinking, this activity is most effective when used after user research but before concepting. Some benefits of empathy mapping include:

  • Understanding the user’s perspective
  • Identifying key findings from user research
  • Condensing all information in one diagram
  • Creating a common understanding within/across teams

Empathy mapping is not journey mapping. While Journey mapping outlines the entire customer experience, empathy mapping focuses on a targeted persona. Looking for a journey map template? Check out ours here.

Steps to create empathy map

Before starting, collect any data and persona information from user research. You can use our free empathy map template to follow along throughout the process! There are four core elements we will cover: what the user is doing, seeing, feeling, thinking. 

Step 1: Identify main persona

Who is this map centered around? In the middle box, label the persona you want to target and summarize their situation. You can create multiple maps for various personas. Also include what you define as the end goal - usually an actionable you’d like the user to take. 

Step 2: Determine what the user does

Questions to ask yourself:

How does the user conduct themselves?

What does the user say - depending on who they’re with, what they’re doing, etc.?

How does their behavior change in public v. private settings?

Write your discoveries in the “does” section of the template.

Step 3: Determine what the user sees

Questions to ask yourself:

What does the user experience in their daily life?

What are the people around the user doing?

What is the user exposed to in her environment that could influence their perspective?

Write your discoveries in the “sees” section of the template.

Step 4: Determine what the user feels

Questions to ask yourself:

What makes the user feel good and bad?

What does the user worry about?

What are the user’s fears?

How does the user view XYZ?

Write your discoveries in the “feels” section of the template.

Step 5: Determine what the user thinks

Questions to ask yourself?

What values does the user prioritize in life?

What does success and failure look like for the user?

What are some of the users largest frustrations and challenges?

What goals and dreams does the user have?

Write your discoveries in the “does” section of the template.

Final Thoughts

After completing your empathy mapping activity, reflect on your findings. Share your final product with your team and/or keep it as a reference when working. By having the user at the center of your mind, you can create more effective solutions using design thinking.