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.

More information

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.

Case studies

Background reading

Beyer, H. & Holtzblatt, K. (1998) Contextual Design: Defining Customer-Centered Systems. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers ISBN 1-55860-411-1

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