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What is user journey mapping

Megan Cattley
Strategist

User journey mapping is a foundation of UX research and design, offering a detailed visualisation of how users interact with a product or service. This essential tool highlights key actions, touchpoints, emotions, and pain points, providing a comprehensive understanding of the user’s experience. By documenting these journeys, UX teams can identify areas for improvement, align internal discussions, and create more user-centric designs. Whether capturing the current experience or planning future interactions, user journey maps serve as invaluable guides in optimising user satisfaction and achieving business goals.

 

Understanding user journey mapping

User journey mapping is a staple within UX research and design processes. It is a valuable tool to understand and visualise how users step through key actions when using a product or service. A user journey map shows how users complete their goal, including interactions they may have, touchpoints, emotions, pain points or challenges and may also include opportunities to enhance the experience.

 

Significance of user journey mapping

Within UX, user journey mapping helps teams identify pain points or barriers, define opportunities for improvement and understand the user’s experience. Having the journey documented visually enables shared understanding and alignment across internal teams supporting effective discussion and decision making to review and enhance where required. User journey mapping is not only useful for documenting an ‘as-is’ experience but can also be used to document ‘to-be’ or future user journeys before design and implementation.

 

User journey mapping process: A step-by-step guide

1 Define objectives
Firstly, it is important to set objectives for the user journey map to ensure you gain a useful output. Are you mapping the as-is journey or the future state? Are you reviewing an end-to-end experience or just a specific part of the user interaction e.g. customer service flow? Once you have a clear understanding of what you want to document within your user journey map you can then begin conducting research.

2 Define your persona and conduct research
Your user journey map should be user-specific, therefore you should start by identifying the persona the product or service is for. Conducting research with this persona type is very valuable to ensure your journey map is based on real insights. This can be done via interviews, surveys, focus groups or if access to users is not possible, a stakeholder workshop with participants with direct interactions with users.

3 Synthesise insights and outline the steps
Once your research is complete, you should first outline the steps of your user journey map, using your research to define the key stages your user goes through. After mapping the steps, you should then focus on identifying the touchpoints your user interacts with at each stage, these may be both physical and digital. Insights on your user’s emotions at each stage and importantly challenges or barriers should then also be documented. Finally, spending time reviewing your user journey map and identifying areas of opportunity to improve your user experience should be completed to gain the most value.

4 Visualise
Lastly, visualising your journey map by putting it into a clearly designed format is a beneficial step to create a tool which can be widely shared and utilised across teams.

5 User journey vs user flow: Understanding the difference
User flows are also commonly used within UX design. Although similar to user journey maps, user flows have key differences. User flows map interface screens to document how a user may complete a goal when using a digital product or service. This helps product teams to understand and optimise the journey a user completes when using the product or service. A user journey map can document physical and digital touchpoints and additional information such as emotions, challenges and opportunities.

Tools for effective user journey mapping

There are many specific user journey mapping tools available online. However, creating your journey map doesn’t need to be complex. We suggest using a digital whiteboarding tool such as Miro to document your journey map information. We have created a template to create user journey maps using Miro here. This can then be exported and shared with team members. Utilising a digital whiteboard tool also means that your user journey map remains a living document that can be reviewed and iterated over time.

Find out more about user journey mapping in our in-depth workbook ‘The fundamentals of journey mapping

 

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