CommonLounge Archive

Empathy Maps and User Journey Maps

May 10, 2018

In this tutorial, we will discuss two important concepts that help us relate to our users better. They serve as the starting step for our User-Centered Design process.

Empathy Map

An empathy map shows you how individual users feel, think and talk about the experience of using your product. It is the beginning of creating a user persona, which we will discuss near the end of this guide.

Empathy maps are used to collect and organize data about individual users. Later, we can go back to them to look for behavioral patterns, and aggregate them eventually into user personas.

Here’s how you make an empathy map:

  1. Split a piece of paper into four quadrants.
  2. Label them Seeing, Thinking & Feeling, Hearing and Saying.
  3. Interview your users, and during the interview fill out these quadrants as you observe their interaction with the prototype/product, or the problem as they encounter it in a real setting.

Empathy map for a user trying to record and upload a video in 2004. Source: How to Run an Empathy & User Journey Mapping Workshop

Once you collect enough empathy maps for individual users (we recommend at least 3 to 5), you’ll start to see patterns — these patterns inform User Personas that you’ll create later.

User Journey Maps

A User Journey Map is very similar in concept to an Empathy Map, except it shows how a user is feeling and what they’re thinking about at different points in time while using your product.

In essence, it’s a series of Empathy maps on a timeline as the user progresses through a user flow in your product. For example:

User Journey map for a user trying to record and upload a video in 2004. Source: How to Run an Empathy & User Journey Mapping Workshop

In the User Journey map above, you’ll notice that different stages of the experience are on the X-axis, and we are trying to identify various aspects of the user’s experience on the Y-axis.

There are two types of user journey maps:

  • retrospective maps: where you map out how users currently do stuff based on research findings (like the map above)
  • prospective maps: where you map how you expect users to behave with your new product idea or with your redesigned flow in an existing product.

Hopefully, in this tutorial, you have learned a little bit about the concepts of Empathy maps and User Journey maps. These are useful tools to help us understand the user’s experience better, and help us create User Personas for the product we’re working on (covered in next tutorial)


  1. UX Mapping Methods Compared

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