User Journey Mapping: Intro Guide for Product Teams (2021)

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How are your users actually using your product? This is a key question that every product team should ask themselves when building and optimizing a new application. While obvious, it is often overlooked.

Taking time to put yourself in your users’ shoes, and documenting the journey new users take, is an exercise all product teams should invest resources in. This process is called user journey mapping.

User journey mapping helps shed light on why your product is experiencing user experience issues and poor app metrics such as high drop-off rates in certain areas of the app, low user NPS, or has various other common UX issues.

User journey mapping is an effective way to create better user experiences and improve on common UX issues within an app, both while saving valuable development time and effort.

What Is User Journey Mapping?

A user journey map (also called a customer journey map) visually represents a typical user’s path when using a product. It’s a popular user experience research technique that reveals how users interact with and use a product over time – starting with your new user onboarding flow.

The purpose of journey mapping is to get inside the head of your users, allowing you to work on meaningful improvements to your product. As you map out your user’s journey, you’ll discover behaviors, patterns, and pain points that illustrate where you need to make adjustments – and the reasoning behind them. Making sure your users have a simple and easy-to-use experience has never been more critical — in a study of 15,000 consumers, one in three people said they would abandon a brand after only one bad experience.

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Above: Example of a user journey mapping document from nngroup.com

Types of User Journey Maps

Once you’re ready to build a user journey map, you’ll need to choose the right type of mapping method. The map you choose will depend on the kind of information you want to surface and the amount of time you can dedicate to the user journey process.

1. Current State Journey Maps

A current state journey map is the most common type of journey map. This mapping type shows you how your users are currently experiencing your product and highlights any pain points. They’re based on data gathered from your current users’ interactions with your product to reveal areas where your product is working well, as well as app areas that could use improvement.

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Above: Example of a current state journey exercise on Medium.

Current state journey maps help you get a much deeper understanding of your user’s needs. It will also help you identify the exact areas where you can improve your user’s experience.

2. Future State Journey Maps

A future state journey map describes an ideal user experience. Maps of this type usually start with the research collected for a current state map and allow you to be more creative because you’re not limited by the confines of your current user experience or product.

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Above: Comparison of current vs future state user journey mapping from nngroup.com

The purpose of creating an ideal state is to identify what you need to build or adjust to achieve that state based on how your user would interact.

3. Day in the Life Journey Maps

A day in the life user journey map outlines an average day for your user, from morning to night. This mapping type illustrates how a customer integrates your product into their daily routine, the times they use it, and uncovers the problems they’re trying to solve with your products.

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Above: Example of a day in the life journey map from Measure of America.

Since this type of journey map focuses on how your customers use your services throughout the day, it’s the right choice if you want to learn what new products and services your customers might need to meet their day-to-day needs – and how your application can solve those problems.

Benefits of User Journey Mapping

Journey maps help you gain a deeper understanding of your users’ viewpoints — there’s a lot to gain from putting yourself in your user’s place. The core benefits of journey mapping include:

1. Improves Product and Feature Adoption

The ultimate purpose of user journey mapping is to solve your users’ pain points. When your users can achieve their goals faster and more efficiently, your digital adoption rates will improve. Mapping your user journey also shows you if any of your product’s features are being ignored. Those insights will show you where you can implement various user adoption tools such as product tours and guided walkthroughs to highlight essential features and reduce the time-to-value for your users.

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2. Improves User Retention

User journey mapping helps you deliver a better product by continuously improving your product’s experience and interface, while also understanding your users to influence your product roadmap. Taking the time to discover your users’ problems and addressing those issues shows you’re invested in making your product the best it can be. When your users see you’re continually putting energy into improving their experience, you’ll retain them longer – reducing your customer churn rate.

3. Allows for Better KPI Benchmarking

Data from user journey exercises allow you to extra data on how users are moving through your product to establish benchmarks and KPIs. Once you make changes to your product, you’ll be able to more accurately track the results since your baselines are based on user data instead of assumptions – allowing for product teams to make data-driven decisions from a/b testing.

How to Create an Effective User Journey Map in 6 Steps

Most journey maps aren’t effective because the people who create them base on opinions or hypotheses instead of gathering real-user data. While maps themselves are quick to throw together, the effective user journey exercises take granular customer feedback and behavioral analytics into account, which can be difficult to collect.

No matter which kind of map you create, you should keep a few general guidelines in mind. The following steps serve as guardrails for helping you stay on track at every stage of the mapping process.

1. Define Your Objectives and Scope

Creating a user journey map starts with figuring out why you’re building a map and what that map will contain. Knowing upfront what your map will focus on and defining your desired outcome will improve the clarity and usefulness of your use journey map.

To define your objective and scope, select a specific type of customer you want to gain insight from and get very specific about where your journey map will begin and end. Your objectives will serve as a roadmap for building your user journey, so be specific about what you hope to accomplish.

Examples of objectives for user journey mapping include:

  • Improving the competition of onboarding tasklists
  • Increasing the number of monthly active users (MAUs)
  • Reducing churn rate for paying customers

2. Build Personas and Define Your User’s Goals

Develop at least one persona that you’ll use as your primary model. The more specifics you create about the behavior of your different users across the personas you identify, the better and more detailed your user journey map will be. You probably already know the value of customer insights and have a general understanding of your customer. Still, you can conduct customer interviews and comb through your user analytics if you’re not sure you have enough information.

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It’s imperative to understand what your chosen persona wants to accomplish as they progress through your journey. To determine your persona’s goals, conduct additional qualitative research that focuses tightly on the segment you’re using for your map.

3. Define Your Scenario and Establish Your User’s Expectations

A scenario is a situation or story you create for your user. You’ll act out that story when creating your journey map, and it can be an actual or hypothetical circumstance. Your user’s expectations are the steps they believe they will need to take to reach their goal. Creating a scenario and expectations helps you better understand your user and put yourself in their shoes.

To create a scenario and expectations, identify your user, why they’re using your product, the task they’re trying to solve, and what results they expect. As an example, Jane is an HR director. Her company has purchased your product to help her hire and manage new employees, and she expects to be able to onboard all of her new hires using your product.

4. Map Out Your Journey

Once you’ve collected the information you need for your map, it’s time to sketch your user’s journey. Include every interaction your user has with your product by listing each step of the process. For example, you can start by listing a task your user persona needs to complete, and the next step would be the user logging into your product.

You can map out your user’s journey on paper or enlist the help of digital tools. User experience collaboration tools such as Figma and Miro offer templates to speed up the journey mapping process and provide a high level of visibility, so anyone you choose can view your map.

5. Test the User Journey

Once you have your journey mapped out, walk through each step as if you were a user. By doing this, you’re checking to see if steps are missing, if you get confused while taking the journey, or if the experience as a whole feels effortless or difficult. You can also double-check your tests by conducting user testing sessions using your journey map as a guide.

Once you identify issues in your user journey experience, add new tasks in your product roadmap and sprint to test potential fixes to these issues. You can also experiment with these new features before they go live with user testing platforms such as UserTesting.

6. Determine Your Next Steps

Make a note of what you learned and anything that stood out, such as irrelevant parts of the journey or an action that didn’t produce the expected result. Document any information you uncover so you can use it to help you make product improvements – and what the results are of our user testing. This will also help your product team make the right decision in pushing new UX improvements for your product.

7 Tips for Creating Your First User Journey Map

Creating effective journey maps requires some work, but it’s worth it. These tips can help you make the most of your mapping efforts.

  • Start with the end in mind: When sketching out your journey map, think about a specific goal your user wants to achieve. Correctly identifying your user’s end goal will help you determine which journey maps to choose and where your journey mapping will end.
  • Find the right balance: Journey mapping requires a lot of detail, but it’s possible to get bogged down in minor details. Too many points on a journey map can lead to confusion rather than clarity, so review each step of your map to make sure you’re not duplicating or overcomplicating anything.
  • Don’t skimp on user research: Journey maps based on guesses and assumptions rather than data are ineffective. There’s no such thing as too much research — gather data on each step of your user’s journey so you don’t end up with missing steps.
  • Gather quantitative and qualitative data: While quantitative data will give you the raw analytics on where you want to improve your product, qualitative data will give you why individuals are having trouble with your app. Both are crucial to identifying and understanding the root problems and how to improve them.
  • Consider bringing in UX experts: If your map will be complex or you don’t have the time to create, get UX experts involved. They will help you speed up the process and ensure your map produces valuable and actionable insights.
  • Don’t limit your journey mapping team: Journey maps shouldn’t only be created by your marketing or design team. Involve employees from different roles within the company to get broader and more detailed perspectives of your user.
  • Measure your progress: Track each change you make to your product and get feedback from your users to see how your improved journeys are being received.
Solve your user experience issues with a digital adoption platform

User journey mapping allows for product teams to find problem areas in their user experience. With a digital adoption platform, product teams can create custom, in-app flows, tooltips, guided walkthroughs, embedded knowledge bases, and more – turning novice users into proficient, power users.

Learn more by setting up a Whatfix demo today.

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