User Journey: A Guide to Creating Effective User Journey Maps

Analyzing the user journey will help you understand how users interact with your products now or might interact with them in the future. And this knowledge can empower you to improve your products.

User Journey: A Guide to Creating Effective User Journey Maps

In the era of user-centered design, the better you know your users, their pain points, and their user goals, the more effectively you can cater to their needs and aspirations.

Although there are many ways to gain user perspective on your products, user journeys can be a powerful addition to your design process.

In this article, we'll talk about what the user journey is, what user journey mapping is, and how understanding these two things can help you improve the user experience of your products and achieve your business goals.

What Is the User Journey?

A user journey is a series of steps that a user goes through when interacting with your product and services.

UX designers can map out those steps to understand how someone might interact with their product. This mapped out representation of how users might use the product is essentially the user journey.

Let's take, for example, an online to-do list service. The user's goal when using this product could be to become more productive.

Here are the steps a user takes within the service to achieve her goal:

  1. Create an account
  2. Log in
  3. Create a personal project
  4. Create a task within a personal project
  5. Check off the task once it's complete

Even though this is a simplified representation of a user journey, you can already see that the first two steps delay a user from achieving her goal. Addressing this can improve the user experience.

It's also important to note that the user journey could start long before creating an account. For example, their journey can start after a simple interaction with a Facebook ad or a blog article.

The journey doesn't end with checking off tasks either. The next step could be analysing monthly progress or contacting customer support. Any interaction with your product or service can become a part of someone's user journey.

User journeys are different for every user and can even vary for the same user during different emotional states.

The most effective way to represent the user journey is to do it visually. This is where user journey maps come in.

What's a User Journey Map?

A user journey map is a visualization of the process a user goes through in order to accomplish a certain goal. The key components of a journey map include the:

  • Actor
  • Scenario
  • Journey phases
  • Actions
  • Touchpoints

Let's talk about each of these in detail.

Actor

The actor is someone who goes through a user journey.

Every journey starts with the main hero, and the user journey is no exception. In order to map out an authentic user journey, you have to define who will be taking that journey. The most effective way to do this is to utilize user personas.

User personas are representations of your users in the form of fictional characters. Typically, user personas specify both personal characteristics — age, gender, and occupation — and user goals.

The more detailed you user personas are, the better. Using Teston, you can recruit testers that match the characteristic you assign to your user personas.

This is a perfect opportunity to bring those user personas to life, gain deep insights about your product and users, and combine theory with practice.

Scenario

Scenario is a description of a sequence of events users go through, usually in the form of a story associated with a particular user goal.

Here's an example of a user journey scenario: A person is planning a holiday and wants to use a travel website to take out a short-term rental for an apartment.

Scenarios may also be useful during usability testing.

At Teston, we help you create testing scenarios to make the most out of your user testing sessions. We provide you with testing templates you can use to design effective test tasks in order to get deep insights about how users interact with your products.

Journey Phases

Phases are a high-level representation of key moments in every user journey. Phases are more defined than scenarios but still remain high-level compared to the specific actions users perform to achieve their goal.

In the aforementioned travel website scenario, typical phases would include:

  • Discovery: how users discover the apartment they want to rent
  • Purchase: how users rent the apartment they find during the discovery phase
  • After-purchase support: how users track the status of their rental, contact the apartment owner, request refunds, etc.

Each phase consists of specific user actions that will be covered in the next section.

Actions

Actions are specific steps that users perform during their journey as they try to achieve their goal. Reading a blog post, clicking a button to sign up for a newsletter, filtering products on an e-commerce website are all examples of actions users can perform.

Touchpoints

Touchpoints are times when users actually begin to interact with your product. Touchpoints can be either a specific interface element that users start interacting with, like a login form, or a certain trigger that launches their interaction, like a pop-up ad or email message.

It's important to find touchpoints in your product because different entry points alter user journeys and, in turn, their overall user experience.

After determining all the key components of a user journey, you're ready to map it out in the form of a graph, flowchart, infographic, or even a screen recording.

A user journey map is a powerful UX design asset that enables you and your team to clearly see what your users are going through when using your products.

User journey maps can be used to find where users may experience problems or to define what parts of your user interface need improvement. Finally, they can be used to allocate development resources and define who is responsible for any part of a user journey.

There are no strict rules about how user journey visual representation should look, just make sure they feature all the core components listed above.

Every user persona should have a separately mapped out user journey.

Let's look at how you can make your user journey map more effective.

What Makes an Effective User Journey Map?

There’s a thin line between an abstract user journey that has no practical value and an overly detailed user journey that binds your hands during the design process.

It takes practice to learn how to map effective and actionable user journeys, but here are a few tips on how to save you time and make sure your user journeys are practical and straightforward.

Define Your User Personas In Detail

Simply put, the more defined user personas you have, the better your user journeys will be. If your personas are overly simple, you probably won't be able to accurately pinpoint their struggles or the decision-making process behind their actions

This, in turn, will make your journey maps abstract and useless.

Don't overdo it, however. After all, user personas and journeys serve as a supporting research method and won't replace proven user research methods, such as usability testing.

A simple and fast way to perform usability testing is by using a specialized user testing platform, like Teston. Having access to a user testing platform can enhance your research process.

With Teston, you can define what kind of users you want to test with, use our testing scripts, and let us deal with the complex process of recruiting and screening the most appropriate testers for your product.

Provide User Journey Maps With Detailed Context

Every user journey is accompanied by a large number of details that are usually not defined by user personas.

For example, the device the user is working from or where they use your product is an important factor. If the same user utilized your services at home from desktop or at the airport from a mobile device, those could be two completely different user journeys.

Another type of context to consider is the emotional state and previous experience of users.

If your user journeys lack detail in general, they most likely will act as experience maps, which are abstract, big picture representations of how users interact with your product.

Remember That Customer Experience and User Experience Are Not the Same

Customer experience is a relationship between customers and businesses. User experience is a relationship between user and business products.

Although the terms "customer" and "user" can often overlap, they are not the same. One of the critical elements of any customer's journey is the purchase of a product. Users, on the other hand, do not necessarily buy products they use.

For example, some services, like ticketing systems or intranets, are built entirely for internal staff use. In these cases, the staff become the user you're trying to satisfy.

On the other hand, if we talk about major websites like Amazon, people who sell products on Amazon and people who buy them have completely different experiences, starting points, and points of view.

Of course, a person who sells something on Amazon needs to succeed in their goal of listing products in order for Amazon's shoppers to succeed in their goal of purchasing products.

That’s why it’s necessary to analyze both of these journeys and why it’s important for UX designers to focus on customer experience separately and analyse it as different from user experience.

If you perform customer journey mapping, you need to address customers' needs, map out customer's experience, and create specific buyer personas that can overlap with other user personas or can be completely different.

Don't Jump Right In to Visualisation

Of course, the end goal for user journey mapping is to create a visual representation of a user's journey. However, you shouldn't rush this process. You should put a significant amount of time into researching user personas and context.

It's ideal to combine user journey mapping with other qualitative research methods like remote usability testing and focus groups. Those will allow you to polish your personas and, at the same time, deepen your understanding of your users' struggles.

Benefits of User Journey Maps

User journey maps are effective UX design assets that many teams use to improve the UX of their products. But how exactly do they help? Here are the main benefits of user journey maps:

  • Working on user journey maps can help you understand how users interact with your products now or will interact with future iterations.
  • User journeys allow you to see and analyse not only specific steps your users take to achieve their goals, but their overall aspirations and motivation.
  • User journeys are helpful when you roll out new features in existing products and need to analyse how exactly those changes will affect your users.
  • By breaking down user journeys in stages, you can define the areas of responsibility for your team.
  • You can target specific customers by creating personas and user journeys to match. Then focus your efforts on improving their user experience.

Don't forget that in order to get the best results with user journeys, you need to combine them with other research methods. If you need help performing remote unmoderated testing, we would love to help you.

At Teston, we simplify the user testing process and help you target specific users who represent your target audience. We will also help you design test tasks to ensure you get the most insightful and relevant data about how people use your products. Time to test!