Paula is UX designer at Making Sense and has a multicolored background in technology and design. She is an avid book reader and loves to draw beautiful letters in her free time. Her ambition is to design experiences that delight and inspire.
Sometimes we need to dig a little deeper in order to make a real connection with our users. The user journey map is a versatile tool that allows us to understand the user’s perspective, their interactions, down to their emotional responses when using a product. With little to no cost, you can gain insights about how your users use your product and find the best way to fulfill their expectations.
What is a User Journey Map?
A user journey is a scenario you can build on how the user’s experience unfolds over time. It’s a visual representation that illustrates the way the user interacts with the product and business (or how they could potentially interact, if the product is in development).
The main ingredients of a user journey are:
Personas, archetypes of your user audience, and their goals and motivations
Touchpoints, where the user interacts with the business, online as well as offline
Emotional states: how the user feels while using the product
Pain points: where the user has difficulties
Devices and context, if the experience crosses barriers and transitions from one channel to another
User journeys are particularly useful when you need to make sense of a large amount of research data, when you want different areas of your company or startup to get a joined understanding of the product by collaborating in the design or simply when there’s an issue and its origin is unknown.
Why should I create a user journey?
Whether building a product from the ground up, or planning to improve an existing one, a user journey can come in handy in several ways. Here are a few.
Identify users’ needs for a problem area.
When you have an idea and want to come up with possible solutions, a user journey map can help by outlining the intended experience and finding the spaces where you can add value.
Define processes and milestones.
From conception to development of a product, you can use the user journey map to start delineating the processes and setting milestones that will determine the stages you want the user to go through (onboarding, engagement, use).
Focus on core features to develop an MVP.
Mapping out the user journey can help decide what are the features that you’d want to be included in the MVP to validate and get early feedback on your idea.
Understand complex user flows.
When facing the challenge of designing a product that covers different user flows that intersect, extend across several devices, or facing complexity from a business process perspective, a user journey helps clarify those transitions and delivers a clear picture for everyone involved in the development.
Determine priorities in design.
Decide on the key elements to be featured in your design, keeping in mind the user and business value, and where in the process they are more effective.
Identify gaps in the user flow.
Find out if there are disconnects between touchpoints, or where your users are getting lost or dropping out of the experience and take the necessary measures to correct that.
Streamline the experience.
Improving your existing product can take less effort if you have mapped out the user journey. For instance, you can use it to spot interactions that are not effective, evaluate the length of major user flows, or reorder steps to make processes simpler.
Provide a solid base for testing efforts later on.
If you create the user journey maps for major and minor user flows for different personas, you will have a foundation for writing test cases.
High-level User Journey Mapping
As we can see in the video, at the end of the process you will be able to extract pain points to work on, and improvement opportunities to engage your users.
When to use a User Journey?
Just as with most user-centered techniques, these are typically used during the discovery phase of the projects, when you need to define the user interactions and map their intended path through the experience. At this point it will become useful as a resource to gather requirements for the product’s design and development. User journeys can also be used later in the process to focus on improvements or with integration of new features.
Another advantage of using user journeys early in the product’s lifecycle is that they allow for reduction of risk by testing business hypotheses during the design phase of the product. If adjustments are needed these will have lower cost at this stage than when the product is in development, and even lower than when it has already shipped.
What does a user journey look like?
User journeys can be built for small experiences, such as the process of buying a cup of coffee, or broad experiences like applying for a loan in a bank. Therefore, you will find all kinds of user journey examples out there. Not all user journeys need to be visually striking –although that helps to clearly visualize the path of the user and get the major stakeholders onboard.
It is important though, that the user journey map is placed where everyone in the team can see and benefit from it, by keeping the user’s perspective in mind.
At Making Sense we think that simply knowing who your user audience is and what their goals are isn’t enough. Great experiences are important to keep people interested and engaged. By adding the empathy element into the mix, businesses can get a deeper understanding of their users’ needs, motivations and concerns.
Employing a user journey map helps you keep these issues in mind during the design and development of a product and thus, it will result in a more satisfying experience for your users.