UX Affinity Maps
When we face user research processes we gather a lot of qualitative information about how these people are and about their mental models. To appropriately categorise this information we can use affinity maps, also called affinity diagrams or KJ maps (which were given this name because the author was Kawakita Jiro).
Qualitative information is much more complex to synthesise and analyse than quantitative information. To properly avoid this difficulty, affinity maps will help us in compiling qualitative data about users and regroup it in categories with similar characteristics.
When to do a UX affinity map
UX teams commonly use affinity maps to better organise observations and ideas of a research study, visualise ideas that come up during design or ideation meetings or to propose ideas about UX strategy and vision.
We can also use them during the problem definition phase, to organise ideas after a brainstorming session, focusing on establishing priorities over the ideas.
They are also really useful to organise and classify all the information which we have collected during user research.
How to do a UX affinity map
If, for instance, the objective is organising observations and ideas of an investigation, the first step to do an affinity map is to collect information about the user. We can do this by different methods such as usability tests, user interviews, focus groups or any other method which allows us to collect comments.
Once we collected all the information we have to:
- Write down the observations that we have gathered on individual cards or sticky notes. On this first step we don’t need to organise the data, we simply need to write them down individually. Also, in this phase we can create colour codes for the sticky notes. For example, if we interviewed 5 different people, we can write down the comments of each one on a different coloured note, to easily identify them. If we are doing an ideation session, another option would be that each UX Researcher or UX Designer is represented by one colour, this way we will know whose note is which.
- Look for patterns in the notes. Depending on the project we are facing, patterns will be different.
- Create a group for each pattern. While we find patterns in the notes, we must sort them in groups.
- Name each group. Once the notes are divided into groups, we give each group a name.
- Analyse what information we have learned of each group. Once information is already classified and grouped we can analyse deeply each one of them to obtain more information.
The classic methodology to build up affinity maps is by using sticky notes and sticking them on a whiteboard.
We can also use collaborative tools with virtual whiteboards, such as Invision or Mural. This way we will be able to work together with our coworkers but without the need of being physically present in the same place.
UX affinity maps advantages
Once we have built the affinity map, we will be able to accept or decline the previous hypotheses about users regarding our product. Furthermore, after doing this exercise we will have a lot of very useful information. These are the advantages:
- Allows us to organise many ideas and concepts, which is really helpful if we have a great volume of information that needs to be arranged.
- Makes qualitative information analysis easier.
- Helps to deeply understand problems.
- It is a really visual method, this encourages creativity and group participation.
Affinity maps do not solve problems, but they do provide us with a much more complete analysis, and are the starting point to finding the right solution.
If you are thinking about learning all about UX Research, take a look at our Advanced Research Specialisation Programme (this training is in Spanish).
This article is a translation of one posted on our corporate website: