Have you experienced a situation where you're involved with stakeholders in design meetings, ideation, or research findings analysis, only to see that they are not interested at all? 

It is essential to hold UX workshops so you can learn how to better educate people, including how to make stakeholders feel more involved in ideas and research findings. 

However, most UX workshops can be a challenge in itself when it comes to getting the team engaged as well as creating order among diverse ideas and facts. 

In today's article, Affinity Diagram UX, we will discuss how this method helps teams collaborate, analyze research findings, and arrange ideation sessions using affinity diagrams. 

This article will also tackle the following related topics:

What is an Affinity Diagram?

An affinity diagram is a tool used to organize ideas and data. It helps organize information into categories of similar items used to analyze qualitative data or observations. 

Many teams in the business and design used affinity diagrams to organize their ideas or complex information like customer feedback into categories or themes. 

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In UX affinity mapping diagrams are often used for analyzing and synthesizing user research findings (such as customer feedback) through looking at patterns and themes. In this case, the affinity mapping diagrams are sometimes referred to as the KJ method or affinity mapping. In other broad applications like business brainstorming or ideation, it may be referred to as a cluster map (another term for affinity diagrams). 

Why Use an Affinity Diagram?

Affinity mapping diagrams are great tools for qualitative user research or customer feedback.

Compared to quantitative data, which is in the form of numbers and digits, Qualitative user research is an analysis of creating connections between observation or patterns and categories in the data. This user research process is called thematic analysis.

Most user research teams usually create groups of user research data from contextual to inquiry, User research user interviews, and field studies.

UX researchers can adequately analyze these team members and groups to get insights from their user research efforts by having this qualitative data.

In general, user interviews and field studies often provide a massive amount of good qualitative data. And by doing a thematic analysis using an affinity mapping diagram, UX researchers can easily find patterns create themes, and adequately figure out data from qualitative research by quickly grouping and finding qualitative data connections between these groups in a quick and efficient manner.

How to use affinity diagrams for analyzing user research

User research is about understanding the needs, behaviors, and motivations of your users to deliver a good user experience.

Wildcat quantitative data is beneficial when it comes to monitoring activities such as click paths, conversions, and other similar forms of data; a good user experience requires essential things that can only be uncovered during qualitative UX research methods. However, the problem in getting this kind of data is it's not easily synthesized asks quantitative data. 

User research data is commonly digested through thematic analysis. During this analysis, user researchers analyze all the sticky notes, data observations, and discoveries across all available information sources by creating themes to organize information and build lines across every individual section. This is where the affinity mapping diagram is utilized, and this is an excellent tool for thematic analysis.

Depending on the type of UX research conducted, the themes you create for the affinity mapping diagram vary. 

Here are some examples of affinity mapping groups that you can use for UX research:

  • User sentiment in facial expressions
  • Frequently use words and phrases
  • suggested actions for improving product experience

Affinity diagramming in UX

Affinity diagramming is a method that is often used by individuals and groups in UX. It is this commonly used by teams for organizing:

  • research study observation or ideas
  • ideas from design-ideation meetings
  • UX strategy and vision ideas

Steps in affinity diagramming in UX

Affinity map or diagramming in UX involves two steps:

Using sticky notes

this is a method where users write down ideas or facts on each sticky notes.

During a usability session, the observer writes down observations, findings, and thoughts on a sticky note. One idea is equal to one sticky note. 

During an ideation workshop, the facilitator or the attendees write each idea on a sticky note.

Organizing sticky notes in groups

After the test or ideation session, the theme has a workshop that is devoted to analyzing the sticky notes by:

  • sorting them into different categories
  • prioritizing each sticky notes and figuring the next steps in design or research

Examples of affinity diagram

New ideas affinity diagram

The image above shows a UX team brainstorming ideas on community collaboration. That category was separated into three smaller subcategories, which include users, contributors, and evaluation. 

The example above also showed voting stickers for everyone to use in rating the best ideas in the affinity diagram. 

Using affinity diagrams or affinity map in collecting new ideas helped the team gather and organize all their ideas for the UX design team to use in improving the customer journey.

Customer journey affinity diagram

This example is focused on the customer journey. The affinity diagram example above shows how the UX team consolidates research analysis and data gathered from customer interviews, usability tests, and user insights.

Learning customers' pain points and motivations is an excellent way for the UX team to brainstorm new ideas to help with the customer journey.

The sample above showed three separate categories that include hopes, fears, and ideas. These categories help understand the target market on a deeper level. Do UX research team can also see hopes, fears, and ideas at a glance, which is easier to brainstorm solutions.

Organizational affinity diagram

This example shows an affinity diagram on purchasing camping gear. This diagram revues essential factors to keep in mind, including setting up, sleeping room, and cosmetic elements such as color and zipper. 

This affinity diagram is an excellent example of what affinity diagrams or an affinity map are created for: keeping information organized, and you can see everything at one glance when trying to brainstorm ideas and solutions. This diagram also shows several subcategories keeping data point organized.

Affinity diagram best practices

Place all data on paper and put them up on the wall

Put pieces of your data points, small facts, drawings, ideas, and observations into post-its, cards, or any portion of the paper. Then put them up on wall charts, whiteboards, or chalkboards. 

By doing this, your research team can easily stick up and move pieces of data around to create more organized themes, groups, or patterns.

Take one post-it

Take one post-it and make this the first post it in the first group.

Take another post-it

once the first post-it is in place, take another post-it and ask your team this question: "Is this similar to the first one posted, or is it different?' 

Then you decide whether you will place this under one group or on a separate group. 

Continue this process until you group everything together

Continue the process post it by post it notes, ask you to play similar ideas together or create new groups when ideas do not fit into an existing group.

Enough groups for discussion

Once you have 3 to 10 groups, then it's time to discuss about the best element of those clusters in an affinity map.

Name the clusters

This will help you create an information structure and themes.

Ranking of clusters

It would be best if you ranked the most critical clusters over less essential clusters. Take note of which values, motivates, and priorities you use. Ask the foundation before you start ranking clusters. 

Making sense to create new connections

Sometimes you will find yourself making sense to create or draw connections with other clusters but using lines or other devices between data or clusters of data.

Discuss the information posted on the wall

Make sure that you have synthesized your insights user needs pain points or any other information that you have not addressed yet.

Focus on what you organized and understood

Try to focus more on translating what you organized and understood into practice rather than identifying similar ideas generated.

Final thoughts

Whether you are a UX researcher or a UX designer, it is not always safe to assume that the information you've collected is understandable and digestible for teams outside your group, such as the stakeholders. 

To better educate other team members and departments, especially those who are not directly involved in user research and design process, get them involved more in taking notes, sorting sticky notes, and discussing these things with them, rather than only presenting them this information.

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Mary Ann Dalangin

About the author

A content marketing strategist and a UX writer with years of experience in the digital marketing industry.

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