Methods: Affinity diagramming
Affinity diagramming is used to sort large amounts of data into logical groups. Existing items and/or new items identified by individuals are written on sticky notes which are sorted into categories as a workshop activity. Affinity diagramming can be used to:
- analyse findings from field studies
- identify and group user functions as part of design
- analyse findings from a usability evaluation
Affinity diagramming is a simple and cost effective technique for soliciting ideas from a group and obtaining consensus on how information should be structured.
- Arrange a meeting of participants with the relevant expertise that will last one to two hours.
- Write any existing items on sticky notes.
- Use a room where you can fix flip chart paper to the wall using Blue Tack.
At the meeting
- Explain the problem to the participants, and if appropriate allow participants to create their own items as a brainstorming activity.
- Ask participants to stick the notes on the flip chart paper, close to any other notes on a similar topic.
- If designing, include users as participants, and group items from a user perspective.
- Once consensus has been reached on the grouping, use a different coloured sticky note to name each group .
Items clustered by topic.
Affinity diagramming to analyse usability issues.
Affinity diagramming for brainstorming.
For pre-existing items, affinity diagramming is an alternative to card sorting. Card sorting finds common patterns in the way different people group information, while affinity diagramming obtains a consensus result.
Beyer, H. & Holtzblatt, K. (1998) Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers ISBN 1-55860-411-1©UsabilityNet 2006. Reproduction permitted provided the source is acknowledged.