1.) How did this exercise help you build empathy with the prospective users?
As researcher you include and retain a lot more of the initial detail present in the interview, which is something you might have discarded in other methods as it might be dismissed as less applicable. Once in the second stage of the diagram you then begin to define the relationship and see how even the smaller initial ideas become relevant as they hint to the bigger underlying needs and concerns. This exercise therefore helps you build empathy with the prospective users as you gain a holistic understanding of their wants, needs and concerns, even when not very clearly defined or well articulated by the user. The informal style interview was also quite informative as you get to know the language and character of the user.
2.) How did the clustering of information help you to understand user needs?
Clustering the information together creates sense and structure to what could be an overwhelming amount of information. The clustering of information also helps you as researcher understand the relationship between the different details in the interview and you can also extrapolate interesting new information that comes to light through the connections and relationships between the different bits of information. When clustering information it also forces you to clearly then define these relationships.
3.) What was difficult or challenging with the technique? How would you do it better next time?
The most difficult part of the technique was to think of how to define a cluster. Even when it is clear that there is a relationship or connection, putting it down to a single concise statement is quite challenging. I feel however, that this is also the greatest advantage of using this technique.
Next time I would retain a lot more of the initial information uncovered in the interview to see if it proves relevant later on. Discarding information to early in this technique my be a disadvantage as you might miss out on a valuable connection.