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Empathy Map

To empathize with the student or instructor by reflecting on what we currently know from our personas and past research reports, in addition to establishing a common understanding of their goals, behaviors, and needs.



Prep time

20 minutes



Run time

60 minutes



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Materials & tools





  1. Steps

    1. On a whiteboard (virtual or in person), create a square divided into four quadrants, with the user persona at the center:
    • Says (top left)
    • Thinks (top right)
    • Does (bottom left)
    • Feels (bottom right)
    2. Using sticky notes, fill in each quadrant with pains and successes that you imagine for the instructor/student. To help you get started, as you place yourself in the instructors’/students’ shoes, think about:
    • What is their daily grind like?
    • Imagine different aspects of their day-to-day activities and how those might influence their needs.
    3. Label any assumptions or questions on the empathy map to inquire about in later user studies.
    4. The needs of our users are always changing. Find a good stopping point once all quadrants are filled with sticky notes reflecting opportunities to address in your UX writing to craft more meaningful experience.
    5. Avoid injecting bias! Review past research to inform pain points and feelings of users for the empathy map.

    This approach can be shared by the team in person via whiteboard sessions or virtually via MURAL. It's a human-centered approach that’s helpful when identifying the needs and feelings of the people you’re designing product solutions for at the start of projects. This usually includes UX Design, Visual Design, UX Research, and UX Writing team members at the beginning of a project. If a project is mid-cycle in the design process, this approach is helpful for individual team members to review what’s been captured by the team, including prior research and personas.


Empathy Mapping: The First Step in Design Thinking, NN/g

Empathy Map – Why and How to Use It, IDF

The Practical Guide to Empathy Maps: 10-Minute User Personas, UXPin

Empathy Map, IBM

Empathy maps: a step-by-step guide for better digital experiences, User Testing

Last updated: Feb 4, 2020