Affinity diagramming (or the KJ method) is a technique used to externalize, make sense of, and organize large amounts of unstructured, far-ranging, and seemingly dissimilar qualitative data. Common uses of affinity diagramming include analyzing contextual inquiry data, clustering user attributes into profiles or requirements, problem framing and idea generation, and prioritizing issues in usability tests.
Our affinity diagramming process for prototype evaluations consists of four stages. First, when creating notes, we embrace the affordances of paper by producing handwritten sticky notes. Second, when clustering notes, we invite team members to go through each other’s notes in sequence, to avoid ownership issues and to create a better understanding of the context when an observation of use is made. Third, in walking the wall, we take advantage of color-coded sticky notes to check at a glance if enough people have raised an issue. Finally, in documentation, we pick relevant user quotes and count notes to communicate and quantify our main findings.