Affinity Diagramming in User Centered Design Complex problem solving. F*&K YEAH!

I’ve never personally done this exercise, but I’ve been curious as to the outcome of it though. Perhaps my understanding of this and my understanding of card sorting, which I have done before, is causing my confusion, because in context they appear very similar.

So what is Affinity Diagramming?

Well to better understand the definition, lets deconstruct the sum of it’s parts.

affinity: noun — a similarity of characteristics suggesting a relationship, esp. a resemblance in structure between animals, plans or languages.

diagram: noun — a simplified drawing showing the appearance, structure, or workings of something; a schematic representation.

There is a wonderful amount of information on the web describing affinity diagramming, but to really simplify its definition I’d like to say it’s this:

It’s a brain-dump of information by a group or individual, that gets organized into logical batches.
Generally you want to get this bad boy exercise going if you’re trying to solve a problem, that can be either too complex, too large in scale, or demands the involvement of a large group.

Ok, ok. So then card sorting is doing what exactly?

Simply put, card sorting is is a method for increasing a system’s discovery.

The methods are similar, but the outcome is quite different. Finding content or a feature is paramount to a good information architecture, but solving a complex problem requires more than just knowing where the content or feature will live.

Hope this clears things up a little. I’d be interested to hear, via comments, anyones experience withaffinity diagramming and its role in solving a problem.

Some useful links: From PQ Systems: Affinity Diagrams From Usability Body of Knowledge:Affinity Diagramming.