Empathy map

Creating a deeper understanding of your user’s behaviour and ideas.

Practical Information

What is this tool?

A simple structure to help you to reflect on a user’s behaviour and words. It’s a way to discover the thoughts and emotions that shape what people say and do. The tool looks at what the user said and did to determine what they thought and felt. It is based on careful observations which could be done through interviews.

Why do we use it?

To create a deeper connection with the users which enables you to develop a deeper understanding of a problem or a situation. The tool guides you to better understand people's perspectives by gaining insights into their behaviour, motivations, needs and perceptions.

Design phase:

Design research, Create & test loop


Pen and pencil, Print, Online tool


<30 minutes

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A step-by-step guide

1.  Select the user group you need to understand in order to solve your design challenge. This can be the end user or another stakeholder who has a crucial role in the problem and the solution. 

2. Collect information from representatives of this user group. This can be done by reviewing your notes, pictures, audio, and video from your research/fieldwork. If you don’t have any information, you can first do an interview with one or more representatives of the user group. 

3. Start to fill the four quadrants of the worksheet. Start with the 2 most objective frames on the left (says and does).

  • What did the user SAY? Write down meaningful quotes and keywords that the user said in relation to the problem you are trying to solve.
  • What did the user DO? Describe which actions and behaviours you noticed related to the problem.

Then move on to the thoughts and feelings which require more interpretation, the 2 frames on the right.

  • What did the user THINK? Dig deeper. What might your user be thinking? What are their motivations, goals, needs, and desires?
  • How did the user FEEL? What emotions might your user be feeling? Take subtle cues like body language and their choice of words and tone of voice.

4. Review the sheet and discuss it with your team members to validate your insights. It can also be very valuable to present the sheet to a representative of the user group and see if they feel they are well represented. 

Use sticky notes to keep the information you write down short and concise. This also makes it easy to move or change the information. It also helps to make small drawings for the insights, not only words.

How other organisations used this tool

How to use the outcomes of the tool?

This tool allows you to create an overview of how people are experiencing a specific problem, product or situation. It can be beneficial in better defining your design challenge, in deeper understanding your users or in better understanding how your users perceive your prototype or the idea you are pitching.

Related tools

Design challenge
Turning the problem you want to solve into a clear challenge.
The design challenge helps you to identify the user group and problem statement which form the starting point for the empathy map.
Interview guide
Conducting an interview to understand the perspective of users and other stakeholders
To have a good understanding of the experience of a user group, you can interview them before you fill out this map.
Creating a cheap and fast solution features to validate crucial elements of your idea
You can use the empathy map as a template to observe the how users respond to your prototype.

Thoughts? Share with us!

We would like to know how you experience how you used our tools.
Share with us your experiences and filled out worksheets.

Email us at: toolkit@butterflyworks.org

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