The Importance of Journey Mapping
In order for a product to have strong UX, it needs a solid foundation. For many projects, that foundation begins with journey mapping.
Journey mapping is a powerful tool that helps UX designers keep user needs at the forefront. So, what exactly is a journey map, and how do you create one? Why are journey maps essential to creating a user-friendly design? Why are we asking you all these questions? Let's unpack our POV on this classic design exercise.
What is a Journey Map?
Journey maps are a visualization of the process a user goes through in order to achieve a specified goal within the product. It allows teams to get a holistic view of the steps users must take to get there, along with their feelings at each stage of the journey. The purpose of a journey map is to show the process from A to B and understand how people feel about it. This helps designers get a feel for how users are understanding the product and how their actions are being influenced.
For example, when a product team notices that users are stalling and bouncing on a certain screen within the product, a Journey Map can help design teams pinpoint the problem area. They can then develop and test hypotheses to understand why, and either fix the problem or create an alternative solution.
This is vital at the beginning of the product’s earliest stages. It allows teams to identify small design issues before they snowball into costlier problems that might require further hand-holding or customer support when the product scales.
It’s a useful tool used to illustrate the entire user experience by visually portraying the process each user goes through, alongside their emotional states throughout their journey. Journey mapping, much like empathy mapping, puts UX designers directly into the minds of their product's user, allowing them to visualize and better understand their customer's needs, opinions, and processes.
Why Journey Mapping Matters
As much as some company stakeholders may like to believe that they know what's best for users, it is often difficult for them to separate themselves from their already-existing knowledge of the product. This can blind design teams, causing them to invest time in the wrong areas.
By clearly illustrating the pain points faced by users, designers can develop a deeper understanding of their audience. As time goes on, that understanding helps teams have more ideas, create better experiences and ultimately care more about the people they’re serving.
Detailed and accurate user journeys are also important to business health: When the company hires new designers or works with a design agency, Journey Maps expedite the onboarding process by giving new people an easy-to-understand reference point.
The Problem With Skipping Journey Maps
For many companies, forgoing the journey mapping process results in a fragmented understanding of the user experience amongst stakeholders. This lack of user understanding leads to disagreements within the company on project prioritization, new features, and improvements that need to be made.
When teams ignore fundamental tools like Journey Maps, they also miss out on insights that could lead to future wins. Documentation like this often reveals trends that spur designer ideation on new solutions to delight the customer. Without it, companies become disconnected from their user base and can’t adapt as they should.
Can you imagine what might have happened if Blockbuster immediately launched a movie delivery service as soon as the internet made it possible, rather than scoffing at then-tiny Netflix? We’d be looking at a much different TV world today.
Companies who aren’t quickly able to fix their product’s existing pain points will fall to companies who can.
How Journey Maps Are Made
Journey mapping isn't a complicated process. But in order to get the best possible data, it's important that none of the steps are skipped over. There are a few fundamental elements that almost all journey maps share:
- Persona: A clear description of all known user characteristics. The more a design team is able to say about their user personas, the better. Sometimes, seemingly unrelated user characteristics can lead to useful insights. What grocery store do they go to? What car do they drive? Nothing is out of bounds here (as long as there’s legitimate justification for that characteristic).
- Scenario: What happened to the user right before they began this journey? What was the inciting incident that led them here? Why did they choose this journey?
- Stages: What are the key stages in the journey from point A to B?
- Actions: What processes take place within each stage? What decisions must be made?
- Emotions and thoughts: How does the user feel, and what do they think during each stage of the journey?
- Opportunities: Where are the pain points of the journey, and how can you use them to better the product's UX?
- Implementation: Who will be responsible for implementing the necessary changes?
Journey Map Stages
All Journey Maps place emphasis on at least one of five key stages within a user’s journey.
Journey maps come in different shapes and sizes. They can focus on all 5 stages or look granularly at one stage.
The awareness stage is often the first stage that UX designers tackle when creating a journey map. This stage focuses on commiserating with users and educating them about how the product or service will help them achieve their goals.
Understanding a user’s initial feelings at this stage is critical because it’s the moment they decide whether they’d like to learn more. Disinterest can point to a number of different issues with design, copy, or audience understanding.
After the awareness stage, users are now interested in learning more about what a company has to offer. They’ll be actively evaluating whether the specific product is right for them. Good UX in this phase helps them in their exploration of the product and leads them down the path that feels right for them.
They’ll now need to make the final decision as to whether or not to go ahead with purchasing the product or service. This home stretch is often the toughest part. Us humans are prone to shopping around, reconsidering, or simply losing interest. Any UX hiccups or confusion in this stage can cause drop-off at the last second. How many times have you abandoned your shopping cart at the moment of truth?
Everyone has signed up for a service or bought a product that didn’t deliver on its promise. When companies invest more resources in attracting users than delivering an excellent experience for the ones they already have, it puts long-term growth in jeopardy. In this online review era, word spreads fast. That’s why entire teams are committed to iterating upon and improving existing digital products. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it industry.
Excellent UX is a gift that keeps on giving. Word of mouth is free marketing. And if a user can get into a product and experience sustained value over time, they’re much more likely to tell their friends about it.
Journey Map Example
After a phase of research and discovery has been completed, teams can begin putting together their product’s journey map. As mentioned before, there are tons of journey map examples available on the internet, but here’s what the general approach looks like:
The above journey map follows the journey of the typical airline company customer – the persona behind the journey map – within the scenario of making a booking with the company so that they may go on a trip. The customer’s emotional state is highlighted throughout the journey map, as well as their goals, behaviors, and, most importantly, the pain points that they face during their interaction with the airline’s website.
Each pain point points to an opportunity for improvement. A smooth user experience, with as little pain points as possible, can be the difference between successfully obtaining and retaining a user.
All That to Say
Great UX isn’t cut and dry. There’s a lot that goes into it and journey maps have proven to be an effective tool in clearing out the fog for design teams. The process itself is rather simple, but the insights that can be gained from it are priceless and can lead to significant leaps forward in a product's success. Most importantly, a successful journey map alleviates pain points and frustrations in order to create the best possible experience for users.
Funsize is a digital product design studio that helps inspiring product teams, small and large, uncover opportunities, bring new products to market, evolve digital products and services, and explore the future.
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