What is a User Journey Map?
When UX designers/team design a product, one of the many fundamental questions posed is how will the users use this product? Answering such questions will lead to the creation of a unique product. However, to answer this question, the UX designer/team must understand the user’s perspective – The very essence of the entire experience. This is where a user journey map comes into play as a tool to help them answer this fundamental question.
User Journey Map (aka Customer Journey Map) is a diagram that visually explains user flow through the product. It starts from initial contact to identify critical interactions and touchpoints to create long-term engagement and loyalty. A user journey map also helps to identify the functionality required from the product and the UI. A user journey map is a helpful tool for everyone to look at the product from the user’s perspective. It can be considered an integral part of UX design and optimisation. It encourages the UX designer/team to evaluate the UX of the product in its entirety: the user’s needs, behaviour and motivation while they interact with the product. A user journey map is a fantastic tool to understand and address the user’s pain points.
There are two significant advantages to a user journey map –
- Looking at the UX through the lens of a user journey map can align the stakeholders around achieving business goals.
- A user journey map can help UX designer/team design a product that can guide their user towards meeting their requirements.
User Journey vs User Flow
When talking about a user journey map, people often compare user journey vs user flow. User journey and user flow are tools used to illustrate the interaction between the product and its users. Too often, several designers consider them both to be the same thing. However, that is not the case as both these tool focus on different aspects of the said product.
User flow is an overview of all the steps users might while interacting with the product. Here, Flow describes the movement, or rather which the users would drive through to accomplish a task. This path is split into a series of steps that the user take from the entry point to the final action (purchase, subscription, signup, etc.).
The above user flow example shows how a user goes through an eCommerce site right up to purchase confirmation. User flow is an excellent method to segment and defines the UX of the product. User flows help the UX designer/team create an inherent interface while working on the IA and UI design. It also helps in communicating with developers and can be utilised during the design process’s implementation phase.
On the other hand, a user journey (aka user journey map or customer journey map) is a visual illustration of the user flow through the product, as mentioned before. It considers the feelings, pain points, behaviour and motivations of the users apart from the steps that a user takes to accomplish a task. It visualises the user’s relationship with the product across different channels that are methods of communication, such as the website or app store, which helps the UX designer/team uncover gaps within the UX.
The above user journey example explains that a user journey map comes in many different formats. It represents a timeline of all touchpoints between a product and its users. This timeline also contains information about multiple channels that users utilise to interact with the said product.
User journey mapping questions
As of 2020, we live in a time of unprecedented change. With every ground-breaking news on the vaccine, expectations for human survival are rising amid a pandemic. Similarly, every new digital product brings forth a rise in user expectations, focusing on user-centric strategies. A simple customer journey map can be a long-standing tool of this design thinking movement, gaining notoriety in the last few years. Yes, user journey maps are imperative when applied with the correct ethos to the right obstacle, but they aren’t the elixir of life.
To ensure that UX designer/team use prospective user journey mapping for the right reasons to unlock their full potential, here are a few crucial questions that need to posed prior:
What is the expected outcome the organisation is working towards?
Creating a comprehensive user journey map takes significant time and resources, so it’s essential to understand why the organisation has greenlit it in the first place.
The UX designer/team should ask themselves what they want to do at the end of the user journey mapping process. If the answer is a user journey map, then they’re not doing it justice. One must remember that a user journey map is not inherently valuable – the value lies in the insights and learnings that are uncovered.
Is a user journey map the right tool?
Once the UX designer/team has an understanding of the outcome they are looking for, the next question to pose is whether a user journey map will achieve that outcome or not.
User journey maps are valuable in many ways, such as:
- Providing a digestible, high-level view of the user journey.
- Identifying pain points and areas for improvement.
- Identifying opportunities for innovation via service design.
- Provides a point of reference for the team when it comes to discussions around the UX.
- The user journey map provides a critical benchmark against which changes in the user journey can be measured.
What is the scope of the user journey map?
Depending on the industry and the organisation’s nature, a UX designer/team can map several journeys, covering multiple channels and touchpoints.
It is imperative to be open on the start scope of the journey to create a concise and focused map.
How does the organisation intend to use the user journey map once it is created?
This is an important question, as a user journey map is only a single tool within a wider user-centric setting. To gather the most value from a user journey map, one has to be sure about the next steps in place for identifying, organising and prioritising insights. Having the next steps in place sets expectations ensuring that the momentum is not lost towards achieving results.
How to communicate with the users?
Understand this; a user journey map is ultimately a research tool. It is a way to make sense of complex user insight that is gathered. It should not be created based on opinions and assumptions, let alone second-hand insight.
There are several ways to gather user insight, such as:
- User feedback
- Online reviews
Remember, the user journey map will confirm pre-existing misconceptions and reinforce generalisations about the user and provide no value if created in a vacuum.
It’s essential to remember a user journey map’s goal is to create a shared perception. It is a tool that provides a holistic view of the user experience by uncovering insights. If done right, it will reveal opportunities to create a delightful experience for the users.