Mapping Users’ Lives & Workflows

MargaretLegal Product Design, User Research ToolsLeave a Comment’s site Design Kit has an article from Shauna Carey, describing how she uses user-mapping in her interviews and ethnographic work with young women in developing countries.

We asked women and girls—community health workers, taxi drivers and secondary school girls—to draw a map of their community, and used their maps to guide a conversation around the factors that allow for or inhibit safety. First, we had interview subjects draw a map of their community, using stickers or hand-drawn symbols to identify businesses, schools, bus stations, and other landmarks. Then, we asked them to identify areas that are safe for women with a heart and areas that are unsafe with an X. Finally, we used the maps as conversation guides to compare and contrast different places and understand why some areas are perceived as safer than others.


By doing the same mapping exercise with several different groups of women in Delhi, our team was not only able to explore people’s individual perceptions around safety, but also to draw various insights from comparing and contrasting the maps. Maps are tangible, so they allow for a conversation grounded in reality. Also, for potentially sensitive subjects like safety, having someone draw a map is a great way to phrase questions that are less intrusive or direct. When a woman we interviewed seemed less comfortable opening up about her own experiences, we were still able to extract insights by asking her about places on her map that she would or would not advise another woman to go and why. One degree removed, many of the people we interviewed became much more candid.

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