Post-it notes on a whiteboard surrounding the word "Strategy"

Affinity Diagram

Affinity Diagramming is a type of card sorting activity for your product team to engage in. You can use Affinity Diagramming any time you are dealing with a large amount of information that needs culling, sorting, or classification but doesn’t require the input of test users, for example:

  • During stakeholder meetings, to better understand opportunities.
  • After contextual interviews, to organize your notes.
  • In UX workshops, to have participants categorize information.
  • During product planning, to gain consensus on requirements and strategy.

For information on how to use a similar technique for your site’s information architecture, see Card Sort.

Description

Schedule Time & Gather Materials

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Schedule Time:

  • Per Session: ~1 Hour
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

  • Sticky notes, one for each piece of information that needs sorting

Carry Out This Method

Hands placing post-it notes on a window for review
  1. Write each piece of information on a single sticky note.
  2. Once you know how much you need to sort through, schedule a 1 or 2 hour affinity diagramming session with your product team.
  3. To start the session, place your sticky notes on the wall (or other vertical surface).
  4. Have your team step up to the wall and group similar ideas together, reading the notes aloud as they place them.
  5. As patterns emerge, allow participants to rearrange sticky notes.
  6. Have participants name each cluster.
  7. Have participants rank clusters by importance.
  8. Put together a summary of your findings and present them to relevant team members or stakeholders.

Try These Tips

  • If you do not have a vertical surface available, a large conference table can substitute.
  • If you do not have sticky notes available, index cards and adhesive tape can substitute.
  • Remember: product teams create Affinity Diagrams; usability test participants perform a Card Sort.
  • You will need a facilitator who will prevent one participant from taking over. Make sure everyone contributes.

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