In UX design, an affinity diagram or affinity map can be one of your top tools for truly digging into your data. It's great for uncovering patterns and themes, as well as for working collaboratively. Affinity diagrams encourage you to rearrange data points to explore the information critically, and often in unexpected ways. It gives added value to your research as you process what you learn during your interviews and observation.
One way to approach affinity diagrams is by using a spreadsheet. It means that all the information will be in one place and is wherever you are. You can assign each person to a column, and include questions, quotes, and observations in the rows.
[Click here for a completed spreadsheet.]
With spreadsheets you have the advantage of being able to see similar responses (possible trends!) in one glance, and can search terms to determine frequency of use. Spreadsheet analysis becomes more challenging when you have a lot of data and it becomes overwhelming. It's also harder to move around. However, the biggest limitation is probably that it's not ideal for collaborating.
For working collaboratively, try creating an affinity diagram with sticky notes and a big wall; make sure you invite key players and team members to participate. This helps you see all of the ideas in front of you, and you can easily move them around as you talk through ideas.
To start, have everyone write down any of their contributions on a sticky note. You may want to pose a question or give them a prompt. Your goal is to get participants to write down observations, actions, behaviors and quotes recorded during interviews and field research. You may want to set a time limit to keep things moving.
Then head to the wall, and start putting up sticky notes. As you share, read the other contributions as well. Start noticing themes and patterns, and group contributions together. Keep talking with team members. Notice any gaps or missing components. Add sticky notes as necessary.
Eventually, you will uncover a few key insights which will help provide actionable next steps and can be used to inform your design decisions.
Regardless of how you approach affinity diagrams, it's likely that you'll refine the way you use the tools over time. You'll find that depending on the problem, you may need to adapt them to get the most out of the exercise.