How to group similar ideas and findings to identify common themes and patterns.
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What is it?
It is a method used to group similar problems and findings together. It helps groups come to a consensus, categorizes similar ideas together, engages stakeholder and team members in meaningful discussion and allows the team to be creative and analytical.
Purpose of affinity mapping
You can use affinity mapping after a brainstorming session or for grouping existing findings. Affinity mapping is often used to identify common themes and patterns amongst the large volume of unorganized, qualitative data gathered during the research phase. It allows the team to reach a consensus and to prioritize their objective from the categorized affinity map. With an affinity map, you can then use it to create a persona, prepare a customer journey map, etc.
Mapping the categories
Common tools needed to create an affinity map often include lots of sticky notes or cards, pens or markers, and an empty wall or surface. Here are steps to guide you through the process, assuming that you’ve already done the initial research (user interviews, contextual inquiry, etc.):
- Write down your findings on the sticky notes in a short phrase. They could be key facts, quotes, statistics, observations, etc. Each note should be short and easy to digest information. Don’t worry about grouping them now.
- Organize and reorganize the notes by similar themes placing them on the wall or a surface and moving them around if needed. This should be done with everyone to see if there are any more patterns that you may have missed. If you’re facilitating the session, make sure that the person(s) in charge of moving the sticky notes are asking other participants for their opinions.
- Label your category once your team has reached a consensus with the grouping.
- Sum up the major insights, user pain points, user needs, etc. Use what you’ve organized and translate them into practice.