Published on March 31, 2019 by

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Understand the positive and negative aspects of a service from user stories.


An Emotional map plots how people feel when they use or work in a service and helps identify where it needs to improve from the users’ point of view.


Two to Three Hours


A long blank sheet of paper (lining wallpaper works well), colourful post-it-notes, markers


In Small Groups

Image courtesy of UCHD http://www.uchd.org.uk/


This group activity is usually conducted following Story sharing* with the people who shared their stories (service users and other stakeholders).

  1. Write all the important stages or touchpoints when someone uses a service across the top of a long sheet of paper. You may have this information if you have already created a System map or done a User journey. It might also be evident from service users’ stories;
  2. Divide your stories amongst small groups of 2-6. You might want to give stories back to who told them, or swap them around. The small groups then go through each story and identify the points when someone interacts with the service (touchpoint) and what they were feeling, then write a short summary for each on a different post-it note;
  3. As a whole group, place post-it notes onto the emotional map. Put them under the relevant stage/touchpoint in the user journey (and add new stages/touchpoints, if needed) and place them higher, if they reflect positive emotions, or lower, if they reflect negative emotions;
  4. Original small groups take turns to feedback to the whole group their significant post-it notes – what they describe and where;
  5. The whole group then looks at the map – are there any common themes, or any links between the post-it notes? Do some need to be moved in relation to others? Draw connecting lines, circles, notes and symbols to help make sense;
  6. Agree the positive aspects of your service – where the notes group near the top – this identifies good elements to preserve;
  7. Agree the negative aspects of your service – where the notes group near the bottom – this identifies where you should improve the service.

* If you haven’t gathered any stories first, you could encourage small groups to share their own at the start of the activity.


  • DO use this method if you have any previous quantitative information from surveys and ethnographic research, interview responses or shadowing, which can also be translated into emotional scores.
  • DO add new stories, emotions and touchpoints if participants think of them.
  • DO add extra elements to your map in addition to story excerpts. If a drawing, photo or diagram helps, add it.
  • DON’T let anyone use emotional mapping as an opportunity to apportion blame – the activity is about agreeing where to make things better (and recognise what is already good), not work out whose fault it all is!
  • DON’T expect to deal with all the negative aspects revealed by the map, instead focus on those everyone agrees are important.


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