1) How did this exercise help you build empathy with prospective users?

Through this exercise, I was able to see a helicopter view of the user’s interests, needs, motivations and frustrations. This really helped me gain an overview of the user’s situation, context and personality which assisted in me being able to see “the big picture”. Once I was able to consider all the facts I was able to empathise better.

2) How did the clustering of information help you to understand user needs? 

Affinity mapping helped me take the idea of building empathy with users one step further because the facts and insights on the initial observation level post-it notes were not given any special hierarchy which differentiated them from other notes. For example, a note which says “The user is frustrated by the lack of information online about restaurants when travelling” is given the same visual hierarchy as a note which says “The user is motivated to travel because he likes to experience new cultural experiences” even though the user stressed the latter multiple times, it only has one note attributed to it.

Because of this even visual hierarchy when affinity mapping, we can consider ALL aspects of motivations, frustrations, needs, interests etc. on an even playing field without the user biasing the solution to address only the problem they stress the most in an interview. In this way, a more comprehensive solution can be created. However, it would be helpful to revisit the initial research to validate that the user’s most pertinent frustrations were addressed in a comprehensive manner.

When designing a solution for the user, it is helpful to consider the big picture while also taking into consideration small details. In this way, we can design a solution which truly solves a real problem and addresses the needs of the user – perhaps without them even realising it!

3) What was different or challenging with the technique? How would you do it better next time?

I found it difficult that everyone in the group wrote their notes in a different way i.e. some used full sentences, others used dot points etc. This inconsistency made it more difficult to place notes because some with too much information on the one note fell into multiple categories. Next time, I would agree on a standardised way to write the notes before beginning.

From some people’s notes, I did not know what they meant by them, this meant that when everyone was mid-work-flow, we all had to stop so the person who wrote the note could explain the original intention. Next time, as people place the notes on the board, I would get the author to explain in the beginning what they meant.