Start with the journey – a concise guide to user journey mapping

Sketchnote to explain why user journey mapping is important and the steps involved

Context is key to good design and one of the best ways to build context is to map out the steps a person will take to achieve a specific goal – an activity referred to as User Journey Mapping.

Journey mapping is like taking a helicopter ride. It lifts you high above the ground level detail to gain a broader perspective and understanding of the landscape around you.

And once you have that perspective, you are better placed to orientate yourself towards successful outcomes.

How to map a user journey

The first question to ask when mapping a journey is:

Who are users?

Whether you have a specific persona in mind or a defined user profile, knowing the target audience allows you to answer the next question:

What goal or outcome are they trying to achieve?

The goal or outcome signifies the point at which the journey ends. It is the solution to the problem the user is trying to solve or the end of the task they need to complete in order to make progress.

Understanding the goal or outcome, enables the third question to be answered:

What are the steps needed to complete this?

For example, does the user need to read something? Do they need to input some information? Is there a financial transaction involved? What decisions do they need to make?

Each of these steps will involve one or more user interactions and once you establish a few of those interactions, you have the basis for researching, designing and iterating a better experience.

Expanding your context

The complexity of modern day systems means it’s not always possible to capture and succinctly illustrate every scenario or aspect of the user journey.

However, it is good practice to consider at least one scenario where the user does not achieve their goal, as well as the standard ‘happy path’ scenario.

In addition to this, you’ll often find the user journey is just one of many steps within a wider customer journey, so investing the time to map out the overall customer journey significantly increases context and the likelihood of user success.

A tool for orientating and communicating

User journey maps are live documents that help you discover more and more about the people you are designing for. They also make great tools for working with teammates and stakeholders to think both systematically and strategically through problems and agree the best approach forward.

This is why it’s important to start with the journey.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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