User Journey Maps: A Guide to Designing Digital Product

What is a user journey map?

A user journey map is a visual timeline that shows what a user goes through to accomplish a goal. It gives an overall view of the scenario and actions at every touch point. If you want a more detailed map, you can also add the users’ emotions, pain points and motivation throughout the map.

The term user journey map is interchangeable with customer journey map. Each map is associated with only one user persona. A simple user journey map can look like this:

User: Tim, 30, Journalist
Scenario: Wants to buy a Moleskine journal

Simple user journey

Why create user journey maps?

1. Improve the user experience

We create user journey maps to build a better user experience.

Mapping should be done as a collaboration between the different teams in design, development, marketing, research, and management. This is because no one in the company has the complete end-to-end view of the customer journey, and it shouldn’t rest on one person’s shoulders. Working together will paint a more realistic picture of how users are interacting with your products and produce better solutions for your customers.

Furthermore, designers and developers are too familiar with the product that they can often forget that what seems intuitive to them, is confusing for users. At times, users just want to accomplish one task, and will quit or switch to another brand if it gets too hard for them. As you’re brainstorming the map together, you’ll discover insight and new perspectives from different teams.

2. Improve usage, sales, and lead metrics

With digital products, you’ll soon find metrics such as sales volume, number of leads, signups and conversion rates improve after implementing the right solutions. Removing a registration process or changing the user flow can boost pageviews, sales, and leads. And a user journey map can reveal where your bottlenecks are. It’ll also show you how simple or complicated you’re making things for your users. The catch is you need to be continually revising your user journey map.

User journey map examples

User journey map examples

Main sections of a user journey map:

  • User: The user persona you are investigating.
  • Scenario: The situation the user is facing or the goal they are trying to achieve.
  • (Optional) Expectations: What the user demands of the user experience.
  • Phases: These are the stages a user goes through before achieving a task or goal. Common stages are awareness, consideration, evaluation, purchasing, and post-purchase. There will be several touchpoints and actions in each stage.
  • Touchpoints: These represent the various channels that your customers use. Examples include website, apps, kiosk screen, tv ads, online ads, emails, etc.
  • Actions: What the user will do or needs to do to get to the next touchpoint or stage.

Optional sections:

A user journey map should have data and insights that are relevant towards improving your product. There is more than one way to map out the user experience. You can add more elements or sections to your user journey map such as:

  • Opportunities: Outline the pockets of improvements to better serve the users.
  • Ownership: List each team’s goal or plan for improvements.

How to create a user journey map

1. Set the goal

You need to establish a goal that you want to achieve through mapping. It could be designing a user journey for a new feature you’re building.

Or your goal could be to solve a specific problem. For example, you recently discovered that your booking app for coworking spaces has a high exit rate during the scheduling process. And you need to investigate why this is happening and to re-design the user journey.

2. Research and understand

Whether you’re building your first product or improving one, it’s critical to understand what is really happening on the ground. If you don’t have a product, you can study competitors and find their strengths and weaknesses, as a user.

Comb through heatmaps, analytics, feedback, surveys, interviews, complaints, and user testing results to understand how your users behave and what they expect from you. Do some research into products that inspire you. Study how they make the experience smooth for their users, and how their design makes things intuitive for first-time users.

And come armed with a summary of insights and inspiration, so everyone can immediately put their thinking hats on.

3. Set the stage

Now it’s time to set the stage. Focus on a user persona and scenario. Identify every touch point. Think of the actions your user persona may take.

A User Journey Map Example

As an example, our user persona is a single 25-year-old product designer who is tired, bored, and stressed working from home. He wants to find a co-working space near his home, to change up his routine, see and meet other people.

Your business offers co-working spaces in various locations for young professionals, freelancers, and small startups. People can book for a workspace through your website.

Goal: Book a co-working space.
User persona: Bob, 25, product designer working from home.
Scenario: Bob lands on your website for the first time, with the intention of booking a workspace.
Phases: These are the stages that your user goes through to accomplish the goal.

Bear in mind that different product types will have different phases. Using this example, the phases may be:

  • Discovery — the user’s first few points of contact with your brand.
  • Consideration — the user is considering your solution and brand.
  • Decision — the user is comparing between your brand and others, before buying.
  • Post-purchase — the user consumes your service/product and is seeking support, giving feedback, recommending, or buying the next one.

4. Map out the user journey

Discuss with your teams and draw the user journey map. You can use sticky notes to illustrate the map, as they are easier to move around instead of drawing with a marker. It may also be better to use an online whiteboard for this, so you always have a digital copy saved.

Since this is a group discussion, these are a few questions you can examine:

  • Are there any pain points or challenges for your user to accomplish the goal?
  • How long does your user expect to accomplish the goal?
  • What is the user experience like, transitioning from one touchpoint to another?
  • How likely will the user take the action you’ve outlined?
  • How likely will the user drop off and exit the journey? If so, why?
  • How is the user feeling at different phases?
  • What more can you do to help the user advance to the next phase to accomplish the goal?

Our user journey map for Bob will look something like this:

User journey map example

Note: This is a highly simplified user journey map. A typical map may have multiple branches of actions, exit points, and use cases. Furthermore, many users will need multiple interactions at various touchpoints over a period before they consider buying or doing business with you.

5. Validate and refine your map

A user journey map is only as useful as how long and how often you use it. If you draw one up, and never visit again, then you won’t gain much value out of it. After drawing the map, you would probably start designing, building, and conducting user tests.

This is part of validating your map and refining it. Make sure you update the map with the latest findings and user flow. Your map is also a handy reference across multiple teams, so ensure it is updated and easy to digest. Ideally, it should be a digital resource that everyone can access.

The bigger that your product grows, the easier it is to lose sight of the different user journeys. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with areas or features that never gets used, is redundant, or confuses your users. This is where user journey maps come in handy, not just to guide your development, but as a reference point of all the plans and insight you had.

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Alvin Hermanto

Alvin Hermanto

Family first // Principal @relabstudios // Customer-obsessed digital design agency // Design sprint advocate // Melbourne // Say hello @alhermanto