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Affinity Home | Abstract | Definitions and Examples | The Project | Data and Analysis | Conclusions and Outcomes

An "Affinity" for Users: A Tool for User Input

An Affinity for Users


Definitions and Examples

The Project

Data and Analysis

Conclusions and Outcomes

Poster Session for EDUCAUSE 2004,
Wednesday, 19 October

Athena Hoeppner, Electronic Resources Librarian
Meg Scharf, Associate Director for Public Services

University of Central Florida Libraries, Orlando, Florida


It is difficult for Web designers to step into users' shoes. Affinity Mapping provides insight into user ideas. On a publicly placed magnetic board, patrons clustered library concepts and tasks into meaningful groups. A digital camera recorded the results, which were analyzed and applied during the library's Web redesign.

Definition and Examples of Affinity Mapping:

Affinity Mapping is a simple technique for organizing concepts: it consists of placing related items together. Participants organize ideas by grouping closely related concept words and phrases, written on cards, into clusters.Students building an affinity map.

Affinity diagramming -UsabilityNet
Affinity Diagrams - IAwiki
Affinity Diagrams - James Hom
An "Affinity Process" Group Process - Learning Point Associates
Usability Glossary: affinity diagram - Usability First
Visualization Affinity Maps - Roxanne O'Connell
Web Content Design and Management - Amandeep Singh Sidhu
http://staff.it.uts.edu.au/~asidhu/32126/32126_3.ppt  (specifically slide 18)
What is Affinity Diagramming? - Information & Design

The Project:

Students entering the UCF Library were invited to help redesign the Libraries web site by constructing Affinity Maps. The participants worked in groups ranging in size from 1 to 4 students who may or may not have known each other before the project. Participating students were provided with magnets pre-printed with terms and categories from the Libraries web pages. Students were instructed to select the terms which they thought should be on the Libraries web site and to organize the selected terms on a magnetic white board. Markers and blank magnets for their own ideas were available. Each completed Affinity Map was recorded with a digital camera (see photos). Students were also invited to complete a short survey and provide comments. Participants were given a candy bar in exchange for their efforts.

Faculty participating in an open house at the conclusion of the UCF Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning Summer Workshop were also invited to construct Affinity Maps using categories from the UCF Libraries Web pages.

Affinity map from group 16. Data and Analysis:

The affinity map photos where translated into spreadsheets.  For each map, the following was recorded: selection of the term, clustering of the terms, placement of the cluster on the map, rank, and group number.

Student Group Maps
Map 1 Map 5 Map 9 Map 13
Map 2 Map 6 Map 10 Map 14
Map 3 Map 7 Map 11 Map 15
Map 4 Map 8 Map 12 Map 16
Faculty Group Maps
Map 1
Map 2
Map 3
Map 4
Maps will open in a new window.

The spreadsheets revealed which terms were selected most often, which were most often ranked as important by the participants.

Total Times Used

Term Used
UCF Library Catalog 14
Search 14
Find a book 14
Databases by Subject 14
Journals 14
Databases by Title 13
Ask A Librarian 13
Journal Articles 12
Periodicals 12
Hours 11
About the Library 11
Course Reserves 11
Contact Information 10
Guides & Tutorials 10
Index 10
Off-campus Access 9
Services 9
Media 8
Online Resources 8
Interlibrary Loan 8
Checkout & Renew 8
About the Web site 8
Reference 7
Other Library Catalogs 7
Special collections 7
Dissertations 7
Gov docs 7
Citation software 6
Online Forms 6

Total Ranks

Term Ranked
Search 7
Checkout & Renew 7
UCF Library Catalog 5
Off-campus Access 5
Course Reserves 5
Find a book 4
Hours 4
Ask A Librarian 4
Online Resources 4
Databases by Subject 3
Journals 3
Journal Articles 3
Citation software 3
Guides & Tutorials 2
Index 2
Online Forms 2
Reference 2
Databases by Title 1
New Titles 1
Services 1
New Movies 1
Browsing collection 1
Collections 1
Library News 1
Other Library Catalogs 1
Special collections 1
Periodicals 1
Interlibrary Loan 1
Dissertations 1


Conclusions and Outcomes:

Affinity mapping proved to be a low-cost method to obtain users' viewpoints on  the relative importance of items on the web page.  While the exercise provided user input on navigation it did not generate new terms.  Most of the groups did not apply category labels to their groupings. In addition, the groupings showed no obvious patterns. So the exercise did not suggest categories or groupings for the terms.

The Libraries Web Implementation Committee is applying the Affinity Mapping results to redesign the Libraries' web site. The site has a great deal of content, but the navigation to some content is often so unclear that users assume the content does not exist. The new design will be implemented in December 2004.

Mock-ups for the new site design reflect analysis of the affinity maps, incorporating the most often used terms and concepts and the highest ranked concepts.

Overall participant response to the exercise was positive.  Students and faculty comments included: "Very good activity."; "Thanks for giving us input!"; and "Fun drill."


University of Central Florida Libraries
Orlando Florida
  Athena Hoeppner and Meg Scharf
An Affinity for Users