Friday, July 29, 2016

Empathy Mapping

I ran an exercise at the beginning of a new project last week; Empathy Mapping. This is part of an overall approach of using Design Thinking along with agile development.

The idea to empathy mapping is to get to understand your users. Per the diagram below, you want to get an understanding of what your user thinks, says, feels, and does (though I have seen other examples that are slightly different than this). You would do this mapping for your main users for your product or the problem you're trying to solve.

To do this, you first want to identify the roles you are going to map. For each role, give them a name to personify it more. So don't call it Budget Approver, call her Laura. Draw out your map on a flipchart and draw a little sketch on Laura in the middle. Have the team talk a little about what Laura does, then have them start capturing these ideas on post-it notes and putting them on your flip chart. What you get is something like this:

Going through this exercise will help make some discoveries about what your users are going through. You can take this as a first step in identifying pain points; things you want to solve with your solution, but don't go into solutioning just yet. Take the observations and identify the themes that pop out. You can apply Affinity Diagraming for some structure if needed.

So now you are ready to get to insights. What does this really mean? Maybe it's time for the 5-Whys to help understand the situation. This is really the problem we're trying to solve. Now it's time to start discussing solutions.

As you get into development, don't throw out your maps. Keep them posted on the walls in your team room. As you are making decisions later in the project, they may help guide you.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Personal Design Thinking

I'm currently reading the book Design the Life You Love by Ayse Birsel. The book takes a look at Design Thinking and applying it to your own life. It is based on the success that the author has had as a product designer.

The book takes you through a four-step process; Deconstruction, Point of View, Reconstruction, and Expression. She uses examples from her own design career to help illustrate the steps of the process. 

In the Deconstruction phase, there are exercises to break your life down into some of its pieces. For example, in one exercise you start with the number of areas including family, work, friends, and hobbies and break those down into more meaning for you. It's really just a mind map that you're trying to create. 

The section on Point of View is meant to help you try to look at things differently. For example, she talks about how Steve Jobs looked at a rice cooker with a magnetic power cord and thought that would be a great idea for a laptop. The idea is taking something in one context and moving it to another context. 

Reconstruction is taking the pieces that have been identified and put them back together in a different way. 

Finally, Expression is about how you externalize this effort. There are some different ideas including vision letters and vision maps. 

This really is a workbook that you want to spend time on every day to go through the exercises. I would not recommend getting the book in an electronic format, it is much more practical to have the physical book that you can draw in as you go through the exercise. There are some exercises that involve drawing, mind mapping, etc and throughout the activities, you want to go back and review earlier work. 

I'm working through the last section, so I don't know how it will all turn out, but I have had some valuable insights. The book is laid out logically and it does get you to think. 

In closing, there is a quote from Ralph Caplan, author of By Design;

When it comes to life,
There is no such thing as design
There is only redesign