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Service Design Framework

Practices and tools for delivering optimal
user experience journeys.

DISCOVER PHASE

Affinity mapping

Engage your team and relevant stakeholders to collaboratively synthesize research findings. Turn data into actionable insights that help inform the next stages of the process.

Templates

Affinity mapping Mural

Who’s involved

The research team and any other team members or stakeholders who can provide insights

Timeframe

When you’ve gathered a significant body of research; plan to schedule 1–3 hour-long sessions, depending on the volume of notes

How to use this method

Affinity mapping helps make sense of large quantities of data — which can include notes from customer interviews, stakeholder opinions, insights from secondary research, and more. The exercise can also help align with stakeholders, bringing them into what you’ve learned through the design process so far. To do this exercise:

1. Set up

Before the team gathers, collect all your notes from the research you’ve done up to this point, and add one distinct insight per virtual or paper sticky note. Use a different color of sticky note per research source — for example, purple for one customer you interviewed, blue for another customer, and green for a research report you read.

2. Set the stage

When the team comes together, quickly run through the steps of the exercise. You can use an example unrelated to the topic to help explain it, so everyone knows what to expect. Note that this can be a slow process, so you may want to schedule multiple meetings to get through it and avoid fatigue.

3. Group

As a team, group sticky notes that are about the same topic or suggest the same insight. Take turns choosing a note to read out loud and add to an existing group of stickies or start a new one. Come up with a working name for each group as you go.

4. Synthesize

Once all sticky notes have been sorted into clusters, go through each group as a team to find patterns. For each one, write down any insights (general takeaways), problems (issues that need to be solved), and opportunities (ideas or chances to solve problems) that emerge, using different sticky notes or color-coded boxes. Also note what questions come up, as this can inform the next stages of research.

5. Prioritize

Once you document insights, problems, opportunities, and questions, sort them into next steps: do nothing, add to backlog, nice to have, and further research needed. Depending on the complexity of the insights and the voices in the room, you may want to run a prioritization workshop instead of this step.

6. Share

The insights you gain from affinity mapping will guide many of your next steps. Share the MURAL board, photos of the in-person board, or a research report based on the exercise with stakeholders to foster alignment.

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