What is Affinity Mapping UX?

affinity mapping ux
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In User Experience (UX) design, affinity mapping is a powerful tool that facilitates collaboration, group cognition, and problem-solving. By visually organizing and categorizing ideas, observations, or data, Affinity mapping UX empowers teams to distill complex information into clear patterns, revealing valuable insights for designing user-centered solutions.

Let’s delve into what is Affinity, what is Affinity mapping UX, affinity diagram UX, and the benefits it brings to UI and UX design services.

What is Affinity?

What is Affinity referring to a natural attraction or similarity between things, ideas, or concepts? In the context of affinity mapping, it implies that certain ideas or observations share common characteristics and can be grouped based on their relationships.

What is the purpose of affinity mapping?

Affinity mapping UX, known as the KJ Method (Kawakita Jiro Method), is a collaborative technique used in UX design and other fields like brainstorming sessions, research synthesis, and problem-solving. The process of Affinity mapping UX involves gathering diverse ideas or data points, writing them down on separate sticky notes or cards, and then grouping these items based on their inherent affinities.

Designers use Affinity mapping to organize information. By this method, they can understand their target audience and build a product or feature much better. However, Affinity mapping does not make the design process any easier. Affinity mapping can also be used to map the process.

Affinity Mapping UX is mainly used by teams for quickly organizing:

  1. Observations or ideas from a research study
  2. ideas that surface in design-ideation meetings
  3. ideas about UX strategy and vision

What is an affinity diagram UX?

A cluster map is also called an affinity diagram. affinity diagram UX is used to organize information. Affinity diagrams help organize information into similar items, especially when analyzing qualitative data or observations.

Understanding your users’ needs is difficult when it comes to UX. There are many sources to gather customer feedback or insights beyond usability tests. These include support tickets, chats with customer service, interviews, and more. This information is not reduced to a number or statistic that can then be compared against a KPI. It can be challenging to make qualitative data actionable, let alone ambiguous.

An affinity diagram UX allows design, research, product, and marketing teams to combine qualitative data from multiple sources into one visual. You can modify each step to suit your style and needs.

  • Stick each idea or data point on a sticky note and write it down.
  • Take out sticky notes one at a time and make clusters of related notes.
  • Discuss the themes and categories you have created and how they impact the next steps.


Why is affinity mapping so crucial for UX research?

When working on a new product, it is important to remember that your customers are the essential aspect of your business. Customers want to have a great experience with your product or service. Understanding them is the best way for you to do that.

An affinity diagram helps you better understand your customers’ needs. This research will allow you to organize your market research and user interviews to identify areas needing improvement and create a plan.

Affinity Mapping to Organize Your UX Research

Let’s say you are a UX researcher and have conducted interviews with users to determine your product’s future and current needs. After talking to the user, you have taken detailed notes. These steps will help you to connect everything and identify patterns.

  1. Hold a brainstorming session

An affinity map is made after gathering ideas. Write down the problem or question you are trying to solve at the top of your whiteboard. Next, jot down individual ideas using sticky notes. This is about getting as many ideas as possible out of your mind in your notebook. It takes a lot of effort to create affinity diagrams.

  1. Sticky notes are a great way to record all of the details

Remember that your goal is to stick as many sticky notes on the wall as possible. However, the more sticky notes you place on the wall, the harder it will be to sort them. It is essential to balance the time and notes you collect.

Each piece of information an interviewee gives is a potential data point. Keep everything organized by looking at your notes. Write down any important information.

  1. Sticky notes can be organized

Take a sticky note and read it. Pin it in one location. Read another note and make sure it is related to the original. If it is, place the second note next to the first. If not, move on and create a new cluster. If you are working with a group, set a time frame and work together to categorize the data.

There should be at least three to ten groups you can group based on common themes. Your team or you should not decide on categories prior to the brainstorming session. Your ideas should be organized and emerge naturally.

The Affinity Mapping Process

  1. Brainstorming or Data Collection: The process begins by generating ideas or collecting data from team members or research findings. Each idea is written down on individual sticky notes or cards.
  2. Sorting and Grouping: Participants then present their ideas and place their sticky notes on a central board or surface. As similarities between ideas become apparent, participants start to group the sticky notes based on these affinities.
  3. Labeling and Iterating: Once the initial grouping is done, participants label each group to capture the essence of the shared characteristics. The process can be iterated as needed, with participants refining and rearranging the groups to achieve the most meaningful clusters.
  4. Insight Extraction: The final affinity map clearly represents the relationships and patterns among the ideas or data points. Designers can now extract valuable insights from the map to inform the design process.

Why do you need to use affinity mapping?

You may know that user research is used to understand users’ needs, behaviors, and motivations to deliver an exceptional user experience. Affinity mapping can be helpful to you in UX research. It’s all about extracting insights and noticing themes. Affinity mapping is especially useful in strategic phases of the design lifecycle, especially the empathize and ideate stages.

Depending on your role and the research method of your conduct, the themes you create for your affinity diagram can vary. When you have a bunch of data points or ideas and need to distill them down, affinity maps are a fantastic tool at your disposal.

Benefits of Using Affinity Mapping in UX

  1. Collaborative Knowledge Synthesis: Affinity mapping encourages active participation from team members, allowing diverse perspectives to converge and fostering a shared understanding of complex problems.
  2. Pattern Recognition: By grouping similar ideas together, the technique enables teams to identify recurring patterns, pain points, or opportunities, guiding UX designers in crafting tailored solutions.
  3. Visual Clarity: Affinity maps provide a visual representation of the data, making it easier for designers to spot trends, outliers, or gaps that might have gone unnoticed in raw data sets.
  4. Empathy and User-Centric Design: Affinity mapping often involves insights from user research or customer feedback, helping designers empathize with users’ needs and preferences.
  5. Efficient Decision-Making: The technique streamlines the decision-making process by highlighting areas where the team needs to focus their efforts or explore further.
  6. Iterative Design: Affinity mapping supports an iterative design process, as the map can evolve as more insights are gathered, or new ideas emerge.
  7. Building Consensus: When stakeholders or team members have different opinions, affinity mapping allows for constructive discussions, leading to a shared vision and aligned goals.

Affinity Map for Ideation

Let’s take a look at the second stage of the design process, where we will use the same tool to organize and gather ideas. The same scenario can be used above.

The research synthesis revealed that users’ most excellent pain point was not being able to notify the delivery man about any changes they wanted to make to their deliveries. The UX team is then invited to a brainstorming session to identify the features that will solve the problem.

Step 1: Sticky notes are your best friend!

The design team should be given a time limit of around 5 minutes to sketch or write their ideas. Each idea should be written on an individual sticky note or index card.

You can write any type of idea, including low-fidelity wireframes or user flow diagrams. Or just a short phrase to convey the idea. Ask everyone to post their ideas once the time has expired.

Step 2: Combine similar sticky notes

Spend time looking at each idea carefully and then sort them into categories or groups based on the themes you find most useful. Sort your ideas creatively and identify the most critical ideas.

Step 3: Take the insights or patterns you have uncovered and use them to plan your next steps

Talk to the design team about the best ideas based on the drawings. You must raise any concerns you have and discuss them with the design team.

You can prioritize and choose the ideas the design team would like to pursue in greater detail. Vote and stickers can be used to decide which ideas should be prioritized or carried forward.


Affinity mapping UX is a valuable technique in the UX designer’s toolkit, promoting collaborative problem-solving, pattern recognition, and user-centered design. By leveraging the power of group cognition, designers can uncover critical insights that drive the creation of meaningful and impactful user experiences. Whether it’s creativity, data synthesis, or uncovering user needs, affinity mapping serves as a bridge that connects diverse perspectives into a cohesive and actionable design direction.


What is the goal of affinity mapping?

An affinity diagram (or affinity chart) is a graphical tool that allows you to organize information from a brainstorming session. You can sort ideas into separate groups or categories based on their connections.

Why do UX user experience designers use affinity diagrams?

Typically, affinity diagrams are for brainstorming exercises or for analyzing large data sets as a team. A UX designer uses an affinity diagram when searching for a group consensus, when significant issues arise, or when many ideas are thrown around.

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