How Does Customer Affinity Mapping Help Brands Analyze User Research?


Jun 17, 2022


6 min read

Customer Affinity Mapping

Source: Freepik

Affinity mapping is a widely used marketing strategy because it effectively incorporates and enhances user research. When executed correctly, it can do wonders by distilling the findings of user interviews into meaningful, practical knowledge.

Let’s start with the basics and learn how customer affinity mapping can help you understand user research.

What Is Affinity Mapping?

The act of making an affinity diagram , sometimes called affinity mapping, collaborative sorting, or snowballing, goes by a few different names. In its simplest form, it is the process of classifying qualitative data about your users.

First, you’ll need to learn more about your target audience through usability testing, surveys, in-person interviews, or any other feedback-gathering technique before beginning affinity mapping. After gathering information, it should be recorded on slips of paper, such as post-it notes. The next step is to have a sizable area to post, sort, and rearrange the ideas.

What Is An Affinity Diagram?

The final product of an affinity mapping session is an affinity diagram, or cluster map, which is used to classify and categorize the data collected. When examining qualitative data or observations, affinity diagrams are very helpful because they organize data into clusters of related elements. Teams working on design, research, and products can get closer to synthesizing qualitative data from various sources using an affinity diagram.

What Is An Affinity Diagram

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In order to provide an excellent user experience, it is necessary to conduct user research to learn about users’ demands, habits, and goals. Even though it’s essential to keep an eye on things like conversions, click-paths, and other quantitative statistics, the key to pleasing your customer lies in the details revealed through qualitative research. However, as was noted before, this type of data is more difficult to synthesize than quantitative data.

Thematic analysis is a standard method for analyzing user research. By developing themes to organize the material and construct ideas across each notion, the thematic analysis aims to understand the meaning of all the notes, observations, and findings. Affinity diagrams are great for topic analysis if you haven’t guessed yet.

The themes for your affinity diagram can vary depending on your role and the nature of your study. Some possible affinity groups derived from user experience research are as follows:

  • Analysis of user emotions and expressions while they complete certain tasks on the website
  • Words and phrases used to search for a service or product
  • Suggestions and feedback to enhance the quality of your service or product

Here Are Five Scenarios in Which Affinity Mapping Would Help Enhance User Research

1. It’s a Great Way to Evaluate the Research

Quantitative data and qualitative data are two standard classifications of information. The latter, the qualitative type, is what affinity mapping focuses on. However, when you collect and organize data, you could notice that clusters of information grow around specific keywords or concepts. These high-traffic spots require your immediate attention. They will highlight the most critical issues for your users and help you determine which ones to tackle first.

2. You May Take Your Stakeholders Along For The Ride

Communicating with stakeholders is one of the most challenging aspects of any project. As a result, asking them to participate in long user research sessions generally does not make sense when they already have fixed schedules.

Affinity mapping is a productive method of including stakeholders in the research process and providing them with a preview of the findings. They can better empathize with users and gain insight into the challenges they face. Remember, they will soon forget you if you provide them with some beneficial information and fascinating quotes.

3. Collaboration

Changing the position of post-it notes is not a challenging task. The results are more significant when done as a group, and the experience is more enjoyable for everyone involved. If you want a new perspective on the data, invite people with various areas of expertise and interests, like subject matter experts or stakeholders.

Also, ensure that there is enough time to debrief the project once it’s finished. Affinity mapping helps in starting discussions. You might learn about previously unseen patterns by looking at them in a group discussion.

4. It Aids in the Discovery of Surprising Connections

Surprising incidents might emerge as your affinity map expands. Some post-its may serve as a “bridge” between ideas if they apply to more than insight. Certain realizations might form a cluster you can summarize with other higher categories.

Also, you might discover that specific terminology is commonly used while discussing a particular topic, which you can incorporate into your work. An affinity map is ever-changing, so don’t be afraid to reorganize it if a new, larger pattern emerges.

5. It Encourages You to Avoid Jumping to a Solutionize

Intense ideas often emerge after user research, such as “some users mentioned they wanted a video, so let’s develop a video!” However, before fully understanding the issue, it might be ineffective to jump to conclusions and formulate solutions.

You may increase the quality of your insights to create your How Might We’s, personas, and problem statements by standing back and letting the affinity mapping process do its thing. If you perform affinity mapping correctly, you’ll reach a point when the answers practically write themselves.

How to Facilitate a Productive Affinity Diagram Session?

Establish Transparency

Both the client and your team will benefit from setting expectations around how you will conduct user research. Before meeting with clients, send them the interview scripts, research plan, etc., to give them an idea regarding the session.

Bring in All the Relevant Parties

How often do product teams wish their clients knew as much as they did about their users? In fact, they should. Clients may miss important information when using reporting techniques like user personas. They should not participate in interviews to prevent bias, but it does not imply they cannot contribute to the study in other ways. Research findings can be improved by including clients in the analysis. Participants in an affinity diagram session should include everybody with a stake in the outcome of the product’s development.

Joining the Crew

It would be best to establish value to stakeholders before work begins. Get the word out that everyone’s contributions today will result in a more manageable data set for the team as a whole. An affinity diagram is a tool used to bridge the gap between the research and design phases of a project by highlighting commonalities discovered during the former. Reiterating the project’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and stated goals can be a smart move. Having individuals enquire and offer comments about the project’s trajectory is facilitated by this method.

Bring Relevant Recordings or Transcripts

Team members take notes during interviews in an affinity diagram session. To create insights, stakeholders review recordings and transcripts of previous meetings. Your group might also have some of them. The rainbow of sticky notes might cover your wall when an interview review is over.

Group, Regroup, And Group Again

The data should spontaneously yield themes. Rearranging sticky notes into clouds or clusters may require some practice for some people. Once data begins to flow, you can observe the emerging patterns.

Wrap It Up

After the team has participated in a few rounds of guided grouping, remind them of the diagram’s set goals. Everyone must surely know their users better by now, right? Which of your preconceived notions has just been proven correct or debunked? Review the subsequent phases in the project’s progression and understand how this step will help the team reach those goals.


Affinity diagrams are one of the means to organize your findings after extensive research regarding the user experience. Keeping these affinity diagrams on record during the design and development phase can help develop life-like prototypes with real data and interactions. Organizing the information using affinity diagrams won’t only enhance the user experience but will also improve and streamline the other processes involved in the project.

Still, have doubts regarding affinity mapping and diagrams? Well, our experts can help you resolve all your queries and hone this marketing strategy to enhance the user experience to a great extent. Contact us today!

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