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User Journey Map: The Ultimate Guide to Improving UX

Ever noticed these marked filters on any common Food Delivery app? ‘Recommended’, ‘Combos’, ‘Veg’, ‘Non-veg’, etc are some typical filters that you would find. Why do you think they exist? Nice question, right? “Duh, it's obvious, that's why!”.

But it was not so obvious a couple of years back when these apps were striving hard to improve

the experience you had with their apps. The designers thought that some Raju would be struggling with his friends to decide what to eat for dinner today, those endless discussions, and then coming on the app to find the relevant hotel. They thought of making Raju’s life easy.

What if the product designers would have just ignored such trivial filter addition? Well then Raju would have to scroll through the list of all the available menu options at Monginis just to find some Vanilla Pastry to order. But when Raju is already frustrated, asking him to do so would first increase the time taken to place his desired order and then ultimately would make his complete journey look like a tiresome task.

This is where a user journey map creates wonders. UX designers understood Raju’s frustrations while placing the order and hence devised a solution to make the order placing task look less cumbersome. Easy, right? If you are convinced so far, let’s get to some more details.

What is a User Journey Map?

User Journey Map is the visual representation of the journey a user goes through in order to accomplish a certain goal with your product. It is a common UX tool designers use to put together a series of user actions on your product into a timeline along with other details of user emotions and thoughts at that moment of action.

In our food delivery app example, a typical user journey map would encompass Raju’s journey right from his urge to order exotic food for today’s dinner to the point where Raju actually eats it.

Now let’s talk about why is this so important for UX designers. A user journey map helps the designers to see the product from the user’s shoes, identify the ‘emotions’ and ‘touchpoints’ that motivate their actions & visualize the product experience not as a designer but as the user himself. Designers try to formulate a narrative around the user actions, a visual story that helps to understand the user perspective towards your product at different scenarios.

When should you create a

user journey map & why?

Well if you have realized the essence of a user journey map, you should get it created well before you start designing/developing your product or a product feature. It not only helps you understand the actual user requirement but also gives you a big-picture view of what the user is expecting. It would help you understand Raju’s state of mind while he is using your Food delivery app. When he is already frustrated with the decision-making discussions, it’s better to help him with a simpler journey to selecting the hotel and ordering the desired food rather than a complex one.

On the other hand, if by now you already have a product in place, you need not worry. Even today you can create a user journey map. It would be a good investment of time and effort. You would definitely understand the design loopholes and find better opportunities for improving the user experience.

Just remember it is not a one-time use map, keep revisiting it more often in product cycles or while introducing new features.

Types of User Journey Map

Experience map

The most accessible type of journey map is the experience map. These maps are great for visualizing how a user interacts with your product or an application, especially if you want to keep track of one specific goal.

For example, how does a person explore the food delivery apps and decide which one to use? What questions do they ask themselves, and what steps do they take? Experience maps are perfect for instances like these!

This makes it easier to identify overall problems or barriers to the user's motivation with a short glance.

Current state maps

A current state map is a visualization tool that shows progress from one point in time to the next. For instance, one might use a current state map to demonstrate how user’s experience your product at any given moment through every possible touchpoint or interaction.

A current state map helps you keep track of everything and ensures there are no gaps in your product due to something falling through the cracks accidentally!

With a current state map, it's much easier to see what works and what doesn't simply by looking at what has changed since then – and how even minor tweaks can significantly affect user behavior and satisfaction.

Future state maps

Future state maps are very detailed and use a visual framework similar to current state maps. These maps help you anticipate what your product(with all potential changes) will look like in the future or how you want your users to experience it on the web or mobile device.

You may ask yourself, "what if?". You can use these types of mind maps while brainstorming an idea for a new project or wondering how you can make an existing one even better.

Day in the life maps

A day in the life map is a great way to fully immerse yourself in the minds and lifestyles of your users so that you can develop solutions to issues they face – without having to speak with them directly.

They're used to visualize actions and behaviors that occur throughout the day so that you can understand what obstacles users get tripped up on and address those issues long before users realize there's a problem.

While still focusing on the hypothetical in most cases, day-in-the-life maps illustrate how personas interact with your products at various points throughout their days.

5 Key Components of User Journey Map

User Journey Map comes in all shapes, sizes, and designs but all of them have 5 elements in common.

1. Actor/User Persona

User Persona is the foundation of the User Journey Map. The actor/User Persona is the one who experiences the journey throughout the process, in our case ‘Raju’.

There can be multiple actors for your product, but the best practice to create a user journey map is to focus on a single actor’s point of view.

Focusing on a single point of view helps in creating a clear and concise narrative and improves the user experience.

For example, an eCommerce platform might choose either a shopkeeper or a customer as an actor at a time. Both actors have their personal experiences and therefore different user journeys.

2. Scenarios and Expectations

Scenarios are the situations and experiences addressed in the journey map. A scenario is associated with the actor's final goal or need and their specific expectations throughout the brand experience.

Scenarios can be real or anticipated based on the phase of the product.

3. Journey Phases

Journey Phases are the sequential high-level stages in the user journey. Stages differ from scenario to scenario.

Journey phases provide a structured base for the rest of the information (Actions, Thoughts, and Emotions) in the journey maps. For example.

4. Actions, Mindset, and Emotions

The user is the heart and soul of the Journey Map, therefore the user's actions, thoughts, and mindset throughout the experience become a considerable component.

Actions - Actions are the steps performed by the user during a journey phase.

Mindset - This component corresponds to the user's thoughts, questions, motivation, and information needs at different stages in the journey.

Emotions - Emotions are represented by a single line across the journey phases. Emotions signal the “ups” and “downs” of a user.

5. Opportunities

The final and crucial key component of the Journey Map. After gathering all the insights from mapping, opportunities emphasize how to optimize the user experience. Opportunities help the team to get deep insights into the user. In order to improve the user experience, it is suggested to answer these questions,

  • What could be done with the gathered information?

  • Who’ll be responsible for the changes?

  • What is the scope of improvements?

  • How will we measure the result after changes?

How to create an accurate user journey map?

After getting all the theory, it’s time to get your hands dirty on creation. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a User Journey Map.

1. Decide your Goals

Before starting to map the user journey, it’s crucial to review or state your product design goal. You should properly plot the user expectations, pain points, user intentions, and what purpose your product is trying to serve.

2. Choose a Scope

Choose the scope of the User Journey Map. The scope could be to plot a 360-degree map that covers a comprehensive user experience or a more detailed map about specific information.

3. Build a User Persona

A user persona is the heart of the User Journey Map therefore it’s obvious to gather detailed information about the user persona. A user persona is the ideal hero-user of your product.

It is suggested to focus on a single user persona in order to make the map a clear and concise user journey. Here’s a list of a few questions you can ask yourself to build a buyer persona,

  • What personal goals are they trying to achieve?

  • What are their pain points/problems?

  • What kind of solution they are expecting for their problem?

  • What solution your product is actually providing?

  • What are their interests?

The best way to get insights about users is by conducting surveys.

4. Define Scenarios and Expectations

Scenarios are the situations and experiences addressed in the journey map. Define all the scenarios and users’ expectations throughout the user journey.

Scenarios can be real or anticipated.

5. List all the Touchpoints

Based on your research, collect all the touchpoints. Touchpoints are the instances where the user interacts with your product and forms an opinion of how difficult, easy or intuitive the experience is.

6. Consider User Interaction

It is vital to understand the user’s intentions while they are interacting with your product. What are the problems they’re looking for solutions to?

A different set of target audiences has different reasons to interact with your product. For each user journey, it is crucial to understand,

Why is the user interacting with your product?

What are the steps taken by users?

What are the challenges the user is facing?

7. Map the Journey

Bring all the gathered information (touchpoints, timeline, etc.) to a table and map a journey in a format of step-by-step interactions. Each step demonstrates the user’s experience with the product/service.

8. Mention the Consumer's Emotional State

User Journey is all about how a user interacts with your product, and what is his/her experience and emotions during those interactions.

A User Journey Map should be the mirror of the user’s mind and his/her state. Covering all the emotional touchpoints helps in getting connected with the user at a human level. You can take the help of an empathy map to identify all the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of a user.

9. Be the First User of Your Product

Mapping the User Journey is the half job done. Analyzing the outcome is an important step to create the best user journey map. Analyzing the user journey map being a user helps in understanding where the expectations are not being met. Doing this can help you in providing a better user experience that matches up to their expectations.

10. Do the Changes and Share Them with Your Team

At last, you can ensure that the user journey map is aligning with the product design goals. Make all the necessary changes to give your users the best experience. Once all the changes are done, share the user journey map with your team members to get their insights to refine it.

Example of User Journey Map

What design problems user journey

helps us to solve?

Clearly, a user journey map puts you( a designer) in your user’s shoes, so when you design you would do it from the user’s point of view and not as a fancy designer. You would start thinking about “what if…” situations before designing a workflow. For example, asking Raju to compulsorily log in to the app(provided he has not logged in already), when he just wants to surf the available options for today’s dinner. In this case, it’s better to have a skip login option just to use the app for surfing.

If you are already having the product developed, the user journey map will open opportunities for improvement of user experience and track how your changes are affecting them.

How professional designers are using journey maps to improve UX?

A user journey map-backed designer would definitely give a tough fight to the one who is not using it. With a user journey map, professional designers have evolved their design decisions based on real customer facts and feedback.

As explained above, including those little filters based on categories, cuisine, time of delivery, etc. on the search page has improved the ease of hotel search for the user. It looks minimal, but from the user's point of view, it creates a huge difference. It reduced the search time, hence reducing the turnaround time for a user to place an order. Designers can make enhancements to the product cohesively keeping the complete journey accounting for a single user goal, and not as bits or pieces of features.

And now, what’s next?

Enough of pondering on what, when, and how of a user journey map. But the process doesn’t end here. These maps would positively impact your overall product’s user experience only if you have the intelligence to draw effective conclusions so as to improve it. With all the opportunities you see, it is necessary for you to identify and prioritize the improvements so as to collectively improve user satisfaction. Assign responsible members of your team to those improvements and get those patches filled.

Lastly, just a kind reminder, make a habit of using the user journey map as a bible for your product design. Keep it updated and ask your team to revisit it while making any crucial decisions.


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