User Empathy Maps

Learn how the results of the qualitative and quantitative research help identify customer pain points.

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Creating user empathy maps

As a product manager, it’s our job to look out for the user’s best interests. However, in order to do so, we need methodologies that allow us to document our understanding of the customers, as well as help our colleagues understand them. Empathy maps are used a lot in both the agile community and wider design communities. They are an important and powerful tool in both cases. With user empathy being such a central driver of product strategy, it is not the responsibility of a single person, and it is also not accomplished in one go. User empathy needs to be built into every aspect of the product experience and every decision that is made during product development.

We need to design a user research strategy that allows us to survey and interview customers on a variety of scales and use cases. The most important place to start with our user research strategy is by making a customer journey map to see how customers find, evaluate, and use our APIs. We should segment the audience so that there is a clear understanding of the target segment before starting the user research. Within our target segment, we can identify three to five personas with varying degrees of influence on making the buying decision for our product. For each persona, we can put together a user empathy map that will help us document the factors that these personas consider in their decision-making process.

A user empathy map is a way of documenting and communicating our understanding of user personas and their decision-making processes in a way that is consumable by other members of our team. As we research the users and study their user journeys, share the insights with the entire team to build a shared understanding of the customer personas and their needs. This makes user knowledge public so that making decisions is easier and the whole team has a better idea of what users want.

This process allows us to build a repository of user empathy maps for various personas that we can bring up as we scope features specific to these personas, as well as when we speak to stakeholders who might already have a deep understanding of these personas. The following illustration shows the template for a user empathy map. We can use this template to make notes in each of these sections of SAYS, THINKS, DOES, and FEELS for each persona that we identify to create a user empathy map.

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