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User journey mapping – what is a user journey and why do we use them?

Thursday July 21, 2022

What is a user journey?

User journeys are a valuable tool, both when pitching ideas to organisations or clients and also when brainstorming ideas or problem solving.

In website design, a user journey is a visual representation of the route a visitor to your site will take in order to achieve their goal. The goal could be anything from finding a phone number, to making a purchase, or signing up for a service.

There are three types of user journey we regularly use; a “current state user journey”, an “ideal user journey” and a “persona-based user journey”. We will explain their uses below.

Why do we use user journeys?

By mapping a user journey out visually and considering it from the visitor’s point of view it allows us to identify where the user gets stuck or confused and which areas of the site work well and should be replicated.

We are all familiar with our own websites, but we are generally not going to be the primary users, but how often do we look at our sites from other user’s perspectives?  User journey mapping will inform the design decisions to provide the best user experience for each mapped user group.

How do you make a user journey?

Firstly we identify the main user groups through research. Who will use the website? What are they trying to do? And in what situation are they trying to achieve their goal? 

You might find that you have a few different groups of primary users with unique needs, or you might find you only have one, but in the case of multiple then they should all be mapped out. 

Improving the experience for one group will often improve the experience further for another or it may not, but rarely will it actually negatively impact it. The context in which the user tries to complete their goal is particularly important and not always something that’s considered; a user trying to do something in a hurry on a mobile device will have a very different experience to a desktop user with time on their hands.

If there are particular groups of people being targeted by the website then we may also use persona-based journeys as this will improve the experience for those people with specific needs further. These personas will be much more detailed than the broader user groups and will approach the task from a narrower point of view, but the process is still the same.So, armed with our user groups or personas, we can map out their touch points with the website, starting right back at how they arrived there and going all the way through to the goal being achieved. If we are redesigning a website then we put together a current state user journey, mapping out the user’s interactions with the website throughout the process, along with their thoughts and feelings at the time. 

We then use the current state journey maps to identify the areas for improvement, either to address major pain points or simply to offer more value to the user. Particularly effective areas can also be spotted in the same way, highlighting patterns in what users enjoy using. With all of this information we can rework the process into the ideal user journey, meeting the user’s needs in the most efficient and enjoyable way.

If the journey mapping is for a new website we use the research to plan out the key steps the user will need to take in order to achieve their goal and how we want them to feel at each of those points. This forms the ideal user journey in that situation.

An example?

Dave is a busy professional who likes to give a little to charity each month, but he often forgets to actually do it due to being tired or distracted. He likes knowing he is doing his part to help others.

Context: He is waiting in line for a coffee during a break and has just remembered he hasn’t donated this month so has pulled out his phone to remedy that while waiting.

Touch points and feelings:

  • He finds the website through a google search.
    • He’s feeling rushed as he has little time, but pleased to see there’s a simple looking banner right at the top of the main page that lists what each amount could help a person with each month.
  • He selects the amount he’d like to give and presses “next”.
    • He’s feeling good about giving, particularly as he can see the impact his money will have.
  • He fills in his personal information and presses “next”
    • Again, he’s feeling good.
  • He enters his card details and makes payment.
    • He feels relieved to have completed the process before he was distracted again.
  • A confirmation screen appears, thanking him for his donation and asking him to consider donating again next month.
    • He feels confused and deceived, the description on the main page implied a recurring donation, but there was no option to choose between one-off and recurring.

This information would then be mapped out into a timeline, showing the emotional highs and lows. These highs and lows would be your actionable insights. The highs should be recreated; in this case short but relevant information, while the lows show where there is room for improvement; wording should be changed to be less ambiguous, or an option for a recurring payment added.

An example of a user journey diagram
Most journey maps follow a similar format: at the top is a specific user, a scenario, and corresponding expectations or goals. In the middle, high-level phases that are comprised of user actions, thoughts, and emotions; at the bottom, the takeaways: opportunities, insights, and internal ownership.

Conclusion

While user journey mapping for many different groups can be time-consuming, it is a very important step that should be done well. It gives us a detailed overview of the user’s experience with the website and from this we can address the pain points, streamline processes and generally improve the experience for all users. 

Download our template here

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