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Journey maps in UX design

How to use journey maps for UX design

Earlier, we defined a user persona as a representation of your target end-users. Among other uses, user personas help designers to empathise with their users as they design user journeys.

Empathy maps help to visualise what a design team knows about a particular type of user. While that information will evolve, personas and empathy maps can capture a relatively static picture of users (given the current technology). 

A user journey map is ‘a visualization of the process that a person goes through in order to accomplish a goal’. [1] User journeys comprise all of the interactions and experiences a user will have while using a product or service to achieve a goal. Journey mapping is a valuable tool that captures the big picture of your user’s overall experience.

Photos of user journey maps Source: Unsplash [2]

Journey mapping helps us design the entire customer or user journey of a specific scenario or challenge we need to solve while identifying the moments that matter. Mapping allows you to see the touchpoints of the service/product usage and everything leading up to and after users engage with it. 

Crucial components of a journey map

Let’s look at crucial elements included in a journey map.

Touchpoints

Once you’ve identified the challenge you’re aiming to solve, the first step should be to identify all the touchpoints the user has to go through (from start to finish). These touchpoints are any interaction the user has with the business (i.e. the product or service). What does the user experience before, during, and after these interactions?

Struggles

You will need to record any struggles, difficulties, or frustrations the user may have while progressing through the touchpoints on their journey, such as a redundant step or lagging of any kind.

Needs and desires

You will need to map the users’ needs, desires, and expectations throughout the various steps in their journey. Ask: What do they expect at this point? What do they expect after a specific action? What might enhance their experience? What is a ‘nice to have’?

Emotions

User emotions are arguably the most crucial part of mapping. Understanding users’ emotions and connecting them to touchpoints will help you understand how to improve their experiences. When jotting down any relevant emotions, the user may experience, such as frustration, anger, or impatience, be sure to include the potential cause for the feeling.

Mapping by design

User journey maps build on personas and empathy maps and aim to visualise users’ experience of a product or service over time. In this sense, they follow the same guiding principles as customer journey maps, which often break down the journey they’re interested in into awareness, consideration, purchase, and retention. Another map could simply break a journey into before, during, and after some event or experience.

Graphic is labelled: Customer / User Journey Map. Below the title is the table: Specific user + Scenario + Goals. The second row of the table is divided into three columns: Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3. the third row is one single column labelled: Opportunities + Internal Ownership. Click to enlarge

The key idea to grasp here about journey maps is that how you divide the timeline or duration of possible experiences will depend on your project’s goals. A UX team could focus on rolling out a big (potentially disruptive) UI update or onboarding tentative users. Or perhaps there’s a particular process that needs some enhancement (e.g. searching a website’s forum, donating to a cause, or unsubscribing from a newsletter). So, when thinking about your journey map, it’s helpful to break down the journey into phases containing one or more touchpoints. 

Remember, journey maps are a multipurpose tool that can and should be adapted to the specifics of the design challenge and aligned to strategic organisational goals. 

Reflect and share

While it’s generally a mistake for UX designers to make decisions believing they are the users, reflecting on your own experiences as a user and customer can help you appreciate how experiences relate to products and services over time.

Consider your own journey with any two different products you use. What would it take for you to abandon the product or service you now find so useful?

Share a summary of your journey with one of your chosen products or services in the comments.

References

  1. Babich N. Why All UX Designers Should Be Creating User Journeys, And Here’s How to Make One [Internet]. Nielsen Norman Group; 2017 Oct 5. Available from: https://blog.adobe.com/en/publish/2017/10/05/why-all-ux-designers-should-be-creating-user-journeys-and-heres-how-to-make-one.html#gs.59od2k
  2. Unsplash. ‘User Experience’ [Search]; Unsplash; 2021. Available from: https://unsplash.com/s/photos/user-experience 
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Introduction to UX Design

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