Affinity diagramming (or Affinity mapping) organises large sets of ideas into categories. In UX, the method is used to group research findings or to sort design ideas in ideation workshops.
What you'll need
- Sticky notes (post-its)
- Whiteboard / large post-it paper
Running a UX workshop can have multiple benefits. Getting stakeholders on-board and feeling involved & responsible for ideas, building common ground across people and teams, and bringing together many types of diverse backgrounds and expertise.
Within a UX workshop, it’s hard to engage the entire group with so many different ideas and levels of management at the table. It’s your job as a workshop facilitator to ensure everyone is heard, and to organise these thoughts and ideas.
Affinity diagramming (sometimes known as affinity mapping) is the process of organising results and ideas into clusters.
How to produce an affinity diagram or map
Write down each idea/result on to a single post-it.
There are two types of data you that work well with affinity diagrams. Research results and design ideas. For research findings, I encourage the facilitator and observers to write the post-its. For idea generation workshops, I always encourage the participants to write these, as it generates a feeling of participation from everyone and levels the playing field if you have different levels of management in the room. You, as the workshop facilitator, could do this, but I’ve found it can create a disconnect between the group and the ideas.
Organise the post-it’s into groups
The participants then have a separate session to group and prioritise the post-its (this could be within the same workshop, or a different one depending on time). For this, you’ll generally need a large room with either a large whiteboard, or large post-it sheets.
You might consider adding a couple of categories prior to the workshop session to get people started. Remember to include a ‘don’t know’ category for anything that doesn’t fit initially. This may produce additional categories as the workshop goes on. As new categories are generated, tell the group that it has been created.
Where post-its are generally the same, ask participants to stick them on top of each other.
Once your post-its are all categorised, or whilst you’re carrying out the exercise, encourage the participants to look for sub-categories, and stick these sub-category post-it’s closer together. Participants may be asked to do this per category on their own, or in pairs if there are a large amount of post-its in a category.
Once you have your sub-category groupings, you need to do something with this data otherwise these exercises are pointless. The next steps depends on you kind of data, but all of them require the data to be ranked by your participants.
If you have research results you could use dot-voting or severity gauging.
If you have a lot of ideas, two common methods are the $100 test and the NUF test. If you have more time, you could also use an impact/effort matrix
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