Design and Technology Guides
A Guide to User Journey Mapping
A Beginner’s Guide to User Journey Mapping
User journey maps help tell the story of customer experiences across a brand’s touchpoints. At Think Company, our teams use journey mapping to understand how users are actually using and experiencing a tool or process—and how that real-world experience aligns with the design’s intention. User journey mapping gives us valuable context and insight to build digital strategies that perform in real life.
How to Create a Customer Journey Map
You can create a user journey map in a variety of instances and for a range of purposes. When thinking about how to create a user journey map, the first step is to identify the specific scenario you’ll be examining.
You can look at scenarios like:
- What moments are causing people to call customer service?
- How are new hires experiencing our onboarding process?
- What factors influence customers to upgrade their subscription?
It’s also essential to think about this user journey and its relevance to the big picture. What is the larger context for this experience, and what other factors might be influencing the user’s journey?
For example, within the customer service ecosystem, users can call, chat, sometimes visit a store, sometimes a sales rep visits their home, or all customer service is self-serve. Ideally, all those experiences are equally seamless or even enjoyable for users. But if one of these individual experiences is inferior, it impacts the customer service experience. It’s essential to consider how this single journey influences and is influenced by other factors before you start.
Step 1: Research
When you create a user journey map, the first step is to identify your target user. This can be a group like current customers, customers of competitors’ experiences, employees, or even specific sub-segments of customers.
Then, double-check that the scenario is timely and relevant to your target. For example, if the scenario is onboarding, the users you learn from should be current employees who are going through onboarding now or have completed onboarding within a few months of the research.
It’s also essential to understand the length of time you’ll be studying. Do you want to look at a user’s 5-minute interaction with an app? Their experience with a brand over a year? The period matters here.
Once you’ve identified your target group, the period you’ll be examining, and ensured this scenario is relevant to your target user, you can move to gathering information. Conduct in-depth interviews, perform a contextual inquiry, or analyze the data from user surveys to understand each step the user takes as they interact with this digital experience.
You’ll want to understand as much about the user’s goals and needs while going through the experience, and their pain points along the way. During this step, it’s essential to use as many different types of research as needed to ensure your data is as comprehensive as possible.
Step 2: Synthesize
Once you have hit saturation with your data, move to finding commonalities within the users’ journeys. Create “stages” and identify key moments, touchpoints, and emotions that happen within each stage. It can also help to focus on these users’ needs and determine whether or not users can be grouped into personas or archetypes. From there, analyze the data to pinpoint what’s working—as well as pain points, user reactions to those issues, what the user needs from the client at that moment, and the available methods for troubleshooting.
This is often a great time to compare the data to initiatives that have already been implemented to meet users’ needs and identify opportunities for further research on touchpoints or archetypes.
Step 3: Build the map
Once you’ve synthesized and examined your data, you can start using the stages you’ve developed to begin plotting the user journey. It helps to create a touchpoint map, visualizing the customer processes and key interactions they have with you.
When building the overall user journey map, size and color help to emphasize major key moments and touchpoints, and varying highs and lows in the path conveys positive and negative emotions felt throughout the journey. This can sometimes lead to diverging paths if there is an overwhelming pain point that could occur.
It’s important to remember that while the user journey map tells the basic story of the user’s journey, it does not need to account for the nuance of each archetype. Think back to the goal of your map; what key insights do you want to communicate? Let that influence the data you highlight.
Step 4: Make it useful
This basic journey map will help you understand the user, but not necessarily how to address the user or the issues users face. To take it a step further, identify opportunities and create strategies to meet the user’s needs. This is the time to transition from research to design and start to take advantage of the insights you’ve gleaned.
Step 5: Further research
Sometimes, we don’t get all the insights needed to flesh out the full story during the first research phase. Depending on the subject matter, a quantitative survey may be required to understand the frequency of situations surrounding a particular touchpoint or validate whether a key moment happens often enough to be included in the journey map.
This example of a service blueprint—a visual representation of all people, content, and processes in large projects or service design initiatives—shows another way to map experience when the details are more complex and involve many touchpoints. In this instance, all people involved in a roof installation project can see roles and responsibilities alongside a timeline with corresponding requirements and content needs.
Forming Digital Strategies with User Journey Mapping
In the context of digital strategy, user journey mapping is a valuable decision-making tool. A journey map helps your team understand what’s going well within your users’ experiences and where adjustments to your products can make them more helpful to the user.
By thinking about this user journey within a larger digital strategy, you can help your digital tools function within the larger environment and fit into your internal flows. It can also help you think through how your team works from design to development and where product owners fit in.
At Think Company, our teams use journey mapping to understand how users are actually using and experiencing a tool—and how that real-world experience can be adjusted to better align to the design’s intention and the client’s overall goals. But more importantly, user journey mapping empowers our team to understand the high-level, real-world experience the tool fits within. By zooming out of the digital into the real world and then zooming back in to specific touchpoints with the tool, we can create more successful experiences overall.
Want to see more?
Explore best practices in UX research
Send us a postcard, drop us a line
Interested in working with us?
We scope projects and build teams to meet your organization's unique design and development needs. Tell us about your project today to start the conversation.