User Journey Mapping is a common Design Sprint method that maps out a user’s experience step by step as they encounter your problem space or interact with your product. This method enables the team to get into the mindset of the user and illuminates pain points, identifying opportunities to create new or improved user experiences.
Journey maps are often for a specific type of user, also known as a persona. If there many users or players involved in the Design Sprint’s problem space, multiple journey maps may be required, one for each user type.
How to start a journey map depends on where you are in your product cycle. If you’re doing a Design Sprint for a new product and/or you are in the early stages of the product cycle, you may want to explore a certain use case for your product and start your journey map with the user’s initial entry point into that use case. If you have an existing product and are further along in the cycle, you may start your journey map when the user is first introduced to your product, when they’re searching for your product, or when they are onboarding and/or setting up an account.
Key Components of a Journey Map
Journey maps come in all shapes and sizes. Regardless of how they look, journey maps have the following 5 key elements in common:
The actor is the persona or user who experiences the journey. The actor is who the journey map is about — a point of view. Actors usually align with personas and their actions on the map are rooted in data. Provide one point of view per map in order to build a strong, clear narrative. For example, a university might choose either a student or a faculty member as an actor — each would result in different journeys. (To capture both viewpoints, the university will need to build two separate maps, one for each of the two user types.)
Scenario + Expectations
The scenario describes the situation that the journey map addresses and is associated with an actor’s goal or need and specific expectations. For example, one scenario could be switching mobile plans to save money, and expectations for it include to easily find all the information needed to make a decision.
Scenarios can be real (for existing products and services) or anticipated — for products that are yet in the design stage.
Journey maps are best for scenarios that involve a sequence of events (such as shopping or taking a trip), describe a process (thus involve a set of transitions over time), or might involve multiple channels.
Journey phases are the different high-level stages in the journey. They provide organization for the rest of the information in the journey map (actions, thoughts, and emotions). The stages will vary from scenario to scenario; each organization will usually have data to help it determine what these phases are for a given scenario. Here are some examples:
- For an e-commerce scenario (like buying Bluetooth speakers), the stages can be discovered, try, buy, use, seek support.
- For a big (or luxury) purchases (like test driving and buying a car), the stages can be engagement, education, research, evaluation, justification.
- For a business-to-business scenario (like rolling out an internal tool), the stages could be purchase, adoption, retention, expansion, advocacy.
Actions, Mindsets, and Emotions
These are behaviours, thoughts, and feelings the actor has throughout the journey and that are mapped within each of the journey phases.
- Actions are the actual behaviours and steps taken by users. This component is not meant to be a granular step-by-step log of every discrete interaction. Rather, it is a narrative of the steps the actor takes during that phase.
- Mindsets correspond to users’ thoughts, questions, motivations, and information needs at different stages in the journey. Ideally, these are customer verbatims from research.
- Emotions are plotted as a single line across the journey phases, literally signalling the emotional “ups” and “downs” of the experience. Think of this line as a contextual layer of emotion that tells us where the user is delighted versus frustrated.
Opportunities (along with additional contexts such as ownership and metrics) are insights gained from mapping; they speak to how the user experience can be optimized. Insights and opportunities help the team draw knowledge from the map:
- What needs to be done with this knowledge?
- Who owns what change?
- Where are the biggest opportunities?
- How are we going to measure the improvements we implement?
An example of a simplistic, high-level customer-journey map depicting how the persona “Jumping Jamie” switches her mobile plan. While all comprehensive journey maps should include key components, what the map chooses to prioritize can (and should) depend on the goal of the journey-mapping initiative. (For your convenience, we provide a journey-map template that you can use.)
How to create a user journey map
A user journey map can include the entirety of a user’s interaction with your product— from the moment they learn about it, throughout the process of becoming a customer, all the way to the point at which they stop using it. Or it can focus on a specific part of this process, like the onboarding flow.
In addition, you will need to rely on user research – both qualitative and quantitative – to inform the process. Quantitative data helps you understand customer pain points, behaviours and actions on your site. Qualitative data is more nuanced and involves actual observations and one-on-one interviews where you ask your customers directly about their thoughts and feelings at each step of the journey. A great starting point for this feedback is by talking to your customer support team as they are on the front lines with customers every day.
Step 1: Choose Your Personas
Your personas are representations of your target customer and can include such information as age, occupation, location, as well as details like what device they’re on and what task they want to accomplish. You will want to do a user journey map for each of your primary personas.
Step 2: Map the Touchpoints
Compile a series of user goals and actions into a timeline of steps on a path that moves in a continuous direction. This represents the experience map. The steps for a typical buyer’s journey are Awareness, Research, Purchase and Use. Within each of those steps exist many touchpoints with your brand.
Step 3: Create a Narrative
Flesh out the timeline with user thoughts and emotions for each stage based on qualitative research. You will want to include actions, motivations and emotions that occur at each interaction or touchpoint, including the emotional highs and lows, paying attention to where they get stuck or frustrated.
Step 4: Create a Visualization From Your Narrative
Transform your text-based or Excel-based narrative into a visualization of the user journey map (often requiring more advanced design skills). You can also start lightweight, with a whiteboard and some sticky notes. This visual representation is an effective way to illustrate to the rest of the company your key insights into the user’s feelings, motivations and emotions.