An Affinity Diagram is integral to organize and synthesize User Experience (UX) data that was collected during research. Creating an affinity is the process of looking for similarities or characteristics that can suggest a relationship. Affinity maps are referenced during the creation of personas, information architecture, context scenarios. All of the artifacts that are creating during the usability process should trace back to data that is located in the affinity diagram.
So, how do you create an affinity map? How does it all work?
When you visit customers to gather research data. All of the information that is collected should be coded and put in a spreadsheet. What does this look like? Well, you should collect information from diverse sample of people who will be using your product, and each person should be numbered. The excel spreadsheet should start with the user number, then give each entry a title, and a number just so you can keep track and make sure you don’t have duplicates. Then you include the content of the information that was collected.
I like to keep this information in a spreadsheet so it can be easily scanned, but the ultimate goal in the affinity exercise will be to print each of these spreadsheet line items onto a 3×3 square. I use a mail merge. By the time data has been collected for all of the users in several field research trips, there can be hundreds, even thousands of these squares.
An Affinity Exercise is best done in groups as a certain synergy evolves during this exercise.
Find a place with plenty of wall space that you will be able to use over the period of time for a project. Request people from all parts of the business who are participating in the project you are working on to participate in your affinity exercise. This gives the opportunity for there to be conversations and sharing around each one of the squares that are to be put into the affinity diagram. Each participant will want to grab a stack of squares, and start sticking them to a very large board or wall. This will be what is known as the Affinity Wall.
Read the data on the 3×3 square out loud, and if you were the one on the customer visit, share information as to your memories of what the snippit is about. As you are ready to post one of the squares, look for other squares that relate to the one you are going to post. Refrain from putting headers on the affinity groups until most of the squares are posted. During the process of posting squares different groups, sub-groups and patterns will appear. Have conversations with those involved in the affinity to discuss why a square belongs in a certain place, and feel free to move squares to groups that make more sense as more are added. Try to not have more than 6-8 squares in a group.
An Affinity Wall should be kept in an area where it can be referenced when creating artifacts. It is a powerful resource for data and can be used as a source of inspiration during the creation process.