Empathy mapping (uncovering insights & identifying needs)

Yaroslav Zhmikhov
Yaroslav Zhmikhov
254 March, 18, 2022 7 min read
254 March, 18, 2022 7 min read


An empathy map will help you summarize the results (information) after user interviews, and it will also help you identify common patterns from the collected information that will allow you to uncover key insights that will help you understand the needs of our users on a deeper level.

Empathy is a deep understanding of the emotional state of another person and empathy with him.

The empathy map is an effective tool to help the whole team develop a deeper understanding and affinity of its users. In other words, to increase your empathy for the users for whom you design the interface.

Recommendation. If possible, use an updated template from Dave Gray.

An example of empathy mapping for an online e-learning platform

The purpose of empathy mapping

To put yourself in the user’s shoes and look at a lot of different aspects from the user’s perspective.

Value for the team

The empathy map helps to develop empathy among all team members, find insights and identify needs.

Value for business

The empathy map is mainly an artifact that is not made to carry valuable information for stakeholders but is a source of a lot of useful insights for the team. That is, based on the data obtained, the team can create a better product or service that will meet a wider range of user problems.


  • Preparation: up to 30 minutes
  • Main activity: from 2 to 4 hours per empathy map and 4 hours to identify all insights and needs

The process of creating an empathy map:

Step 1. ‘GOAL’ section:

  • It is necessary to determine ‘WHO are we empathizing with?’ is the object of the empathy mapping (who is this person we want to understand), in what situation this person is, and what role this person plays in this situation.

In other words, here you have to describe the person you interviewed.

  • Section ‘What do they need to DO?’ means what the person will do (meaning what target action the character will perform, what decisions will be made by him, and how we would understand if the person managed to perform the target action).

Step 2. ‘What do they SEE? section’

It is necessary to understand what a person faces in the market or within the circle of people of close communication, what a person follows, reads, or whether he or she sees how others do it.

Step 3. ‘What do they SAY?’ section

You need to understand what the person is saying and what he or she could say.

Step 4. ‘What do they DO?’ section

It means what she is doing today, what behavior we have noticed, and what we think a person can do.

Step 5. ‘What do they HEAR?’ section

We need to describe what the person heard from others (friends, colleagues, and third parties).

Step 6. ‘What do they THINK and FEEL’ section

Only after we have added all the components of the external elements, we can move on to what is happening in the user’s mind. This is the most important stage:

Finding out these data will give us an idea of ​​”How to be them”

  • ‘PAINS’ section. These are the problems the character faces. That is, what are their fears, frustrations, and anxieties.
  • ‘GAINS’ section. These are the benefits to which the character goes. That is, what are their wants, needs, hopes, and dreams.

Synthesize INSIGHTS and NEEDS:


This is something that you could not discover on your own, and this has become a discovery for you. For example, in an interview, you received valuable information about the needs of the user that you did not know about before. In other words, it is a hidden human need.

That is, a person wants something, but for internal reasons, he does not receive it. It is important to find the hidden contradiction.


Insight examples:

  1. The student wants to learn the language more effectively, but through quarantine, he spends most of his day in bed and does nothing, because he now does not need to go to school, because it is closed, and there are no online classes yet.
  2. A student at home does not want to do home exercises and learn new material, but feels that if he does not do this regularly, it will develop into a habit and he will lose his skills!

Recommendation: the more options you have, the more likely you are to find hidden insights, but formulate them in real, emotional language.

For training, let’s find insight:

  1. She doesn’t always do her homework and learn new material because she can’t concentrate at home. In my opinion, this is obvious pain, it does not suit us, we need to try to understand why exactly she cannot concentrate.
  2. She doesn’t always do her homework and learn new material because her brother constantly distracts her at home. This is even less non-obvious pain, it does not suit us. It is necessary to find out why her brother constantly distracts her, and why this barrier is insurmountable in the opinion of our user.
  3. She doesn’t always do her homework and learn new material because her brother is always playing games and there is no other free desktop and she has to study English on the floor using her mobile phone. Now, this is a hidden insider! But you need to understand that in this case, I took the problem that is related to her brother, but in reality, there can be a lot of other reasons, for example, the lack of a printed book for training.

Summing up everything written above, you need to synthesize the main ideas. How to do it? View the stickers you filled out in all the squares of the empathy map and find the hidden contradictions of users. They can be found in one square or in several.


This is the need that follows from the received іnsight.

Needs are verbs, i.e. activities and desires. Needs are not nouns, which will instead lead you to define solutions by Interaction Design Foundation.

The final result

[INSIGHT] Users often look for ways to assess their performance in learning a foreign language themselves, since teachers do not always pay attention to this, and sometimes even skip such conversations, and this greatly affects their motivation > [NEED] Users should be able to receive reports on the work in a foreign language lesson, as well as on success over a certain period of time.

Synthesized INSIGHTS and NEEDS we will use when working on the problem statement - point of view (POV) and how might we (HMW) questions.

This example of an empathy map is by Alexandra Lee. Thanks a lot. Please note how she was able to discover trends and patterns from which she was able to draw insights and discover the needs of her users.

Her case study - BeautyShelf.

Empathy map by Szani Lee (Alexandra Lee)

Insights and Needs for empathy map by Szani Lee (Alexandra Lee)

Example: Empathy mapping

OTAKOYI UX design program:

Stage 1. Business research:

  • Step 1. Preparatory & Secondary research (Desk research)
  • Step 2. Kick-off meeting & Stakeholder interviews
  • Step 3. Business model canvas (BMC)
  • Step 4. Competitive analysis
  • Step 5. SWOT analysis
  • Step 6. Business process model and notation 2.0+ (BPMN)

Stage 2. User research:

  • Step 7. User interviews (based on proto-persona) & Hypothesis
  • Step 8. Focus groups
  • Step 9. Surveys
  • Step 10. Empathy mapping (uncovering insights & identifying needs)
  • Step 11. User personas
  • Step 12. Point of view (POV) — Problem statement & How might we (HMW) questions

Stage 3. Strategy phase:

  • Step 13. Business & User Goals
  • Step 14. Value proposition canvas (VPC) — additional POVs and value descriptions
  • Step 15. Customer journey map (CJM)
  • Step 16. Service blueprint

Stage 4. Ideation phase:

  • Step 17. Ideation (Six thinking hats, Brainstorming & The Walt Disney creativity strategy)

Stage 5. Design:

  • Step 18. Prioritization
  • Step 19. User flows & Task flow
  • Step 20. Information architecture
  • Step 21. Wireframing

Stage 6. Test:

  • Step 22. UX testing methods