How to Create an Affinity Diagram for UX Research

Affinity diagrams and thematic analysis are a very popular method to make sense of UX research

What is an Affinity Diagram?

Business and design teams have used affinity diagrams for a long time to organize ideas, complex information and even customer feedback into themes or groups. For UX researchers, affinity diagrams are often used for analyzing and synthesizing user research findings by patterns and themes. In this case affinity diagrams are sometimes referred to as the KJ method or an affinity map. Also in other broad application like business brainstorming or idea generation it may be called a cluster map.

Why Use an Affinity Diagram?

Teams will often use an affinity diagram to create groups, or themes, of user research data from things like contextual inquiry, user interviews and field studies. From there they can deeper analyze those themes and groups to uncover insights from their user research efforts.

User interviews, ethnography and field study often provide a large amount of rich qualitative data. Doing thematic analysis using an affinity diagram helps you find patterns, create themes and figure out what you learned from qualitative research by quickly grouping data and finding connections between those groups quickly and effectively.

Affinity Diagrams for User Research Analysis & Synthesis

Themes from user research are entirely dependent on your research and goals. Here are some examples and ideas for creating useful themes from your UX research data:

  • Answers to specific research questions
  • Frequently seen or heard topics/ideas
  • Summary of related notes, observations and data

Steps to Creating and Affinity Diagram

  1. Look for patterns and notes or observations that are related
  2. Create a group for each pattern or theme
  3. Give each theme or group a name
  4. Bonus: create a statement of what you learned about each group (this is often referred to as a Key Insight in UX research)

Examples of Affinity Diagrams and Thematic Analysis for UX Research

Below is a detailed example of how to use an affinity map using sticky notes on a wall.

First, add each note or observation to a sticky note and put them on the wall:

Next, organize the sticky notes together into groups of similar notes. Like this:

Finally, give each of those groups a name or label to represent what that group means:

There are some drawbacks to using an affinity map with sticky notes on the wall however. Some disadvantages of a traditional affinity diagram with sticky notes are:

  • It’s not portable or searchable (like software)
  • Tied to a physical location
  • You have to manually copy sticky notes if you want a note in more than one group
  • Your final insights end up somewhere else (and the raw data/notes still on the wall)

Make an Affinity Diagram Online with Aurelius

You’ll notice the example uses the exact same notes as data to demonstrate exactly how you’d do this using Aurelius.

Step 1. Take notes and add tags to those notes

Taking UX Research Notes in Aurelius
Tags and Codes for UX Research Notes in Aurelius

Step 2. View the Analysis Board to see your tags and data

Analyzing and Synthesizing Research Data in Aurelius
Just like Kanban Boards in Trello or Miro you can switch between horizontal and vertical views

Step 3. Make themes to organize and group your notes to create an affinity diagram

Drag and drop notes from tag columns into themes to create an affinity diagram for UX research

Step 4. Turn themes into key insights to capture findings

Creating a Key Insight from a theme in Aurelius

Step 5. Tag that key insight so it becomes part of that theme and findable by that tag to reference later, report and make more informed design, product and feature recommendations

Key Insight with supporting notes, quotes and data

Watch a short video showing you step by step how to quickly organize and analyze user research in Aurelius:

Aurelius helps you tag, analyze and share your user research insights

Next Steps

In fact try Aurelius to help you tag, organize and analyze your user research data and insights. We’d love to hear what you think!

Sign up for a 30 day trial today.

This article was originally posted on the Aurelius blog.



CEO, Co-Founder at Aurelius ( INTJ. Sheepdog.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store