Visualizing empathy online with Mural

Written by 
Jim Kalbach
March 24, 2015

Good design comes from understanding your users. Typically, though, project teams are motivated to focus on the the solution early on. Resist this urge. Try to first see things from the user’s perspective. It won’t take long.

The empathy map is a quick, easy-to-use tool to instill some sensitivity for users into your team. It was created by XPLANE’s Scott Matthews and has been widely used in a number of contexts.

Using the empathy map within MURAL is a breeze. Set up a new mural and invite your team to a conference call to complete it together. You’ll only need 15-30 minutes for the entire exercise.

Here’s what you need to do:

STEP 1: Drag the empathy map template from the Layout feature on the left into a new mural

STEP 2: Once everyone joins the call and can access the mural, agree on a name for the person you’re targeting. Put the name in the center on a sticky note. For bonus points, add a photo or sketch of the person into the mural

STEP 3: Using sticky notes, have each person on the team fill in the regions of the empathy map. What would that person think, feel, see, do, say and hear? What pains and gains to they have?

The intent is to break down various aspects of the target users. Give them a name and think of their context of use. This will help humanize the individual and see things through their eyes.

In addition to typing notes, use the Sketch feature. You can also find images from the web and add them directly to the empathy map. Try limiting the time each section to a minute or two to keep things moving.

STEP 4: Finally, have a discussion about the resulting map. The goal is to get an empathetic snapshot of the target user. Ask the team, What problems can our project address? How can we better support that person? What pains can we eliminate?

Use the connectors and “stickers” in MURAL to show relationships and make conclusions as a team. Also, try using the Dot Voting feature in MURAL to prioritize factors in each region of the empathy map.

Starting with empathy for your users is a shift in mindset--one that can help you make better decisions, better products and services, and to foster stronger teamwork.

Doing this exercise online has many benefits. For one, it allows you to work with remote teams without losing the visual style of group collaboration whiteboards afford. But also, once it’s completed you can refer back to it or share it with others easily.

Completing an empathy map online is easy and effective with MURAL. Try it today and let us know what you think.

About the authors

About the authors

Jim Kalbach

Jim Kalbach

Chief Evangelist
Jim is a noted author, speaker, and instructor in innovation, design, and the future of work. He is currently Chief Evangelist at Mural, the leading visual work platform.

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