Practical Tips for User Journey Mapping

Guide to User Journey Mapping

There are plenty of UX deliverables that designers should know and apply during the design process. They help us to empathize with users and design more valuable solutions. The User Journey Map is a fundamental part of every product or service design process. This story covers practical guides that will help you get the most from experience mapping.

First, let’s cover the foundations as a refresher on the purpose and elements of maps.

What is a User Journey Map

The User Journey Map, also called the Customer Journey Map, is a specific type of diagram that charts every touchpoint in a user’s path towards accomplishing a determined goal. Most maps are linear, but they can also have loops.

All journey maps diagram multiple layers. They describe user behavior and emotions, as well as how the system behaves. The fundamental parts of every map are:

  • Actor – the user persona interacting with a solution. The map describes the actions and product’s feedback from the perspective of the actor.
  • Scenario – the path of a journey. It may include the existing behavior of the solution or the theoretical one (if the product doesn’t exist yet).
  • Actor’s actions – Sequentially aligned actions are the must-have of every map. They describe what the user is doing with the solution.
  • Actor’s emotions/mindset – these may be hypothetical, empathy-based feelings or feelings and reactions recorded during research.
  • Touchpoints – every moment of interaction with the solution or service.
  • Channels – these can be different devices like a mobile, web or a watch app. But it could also just be a different page on a website.

Thanks to these elements, designers are able to discover and solve pain points and prepare moments of delight to increase customer engagement and satisfaction.

Every element of the map is dynamic. Remember that if you have already created empathy maps for your personas. They are usually static, but user thoughts and feelings change as they follow the journey map scenario.

When to create maps?

The biggest advantage of journey maps is that you can prepare them before you start the project and/or after the product already exists.

User maps can help validate the feasibility of a planned solution. And experience mapping in the existing solution is the most efficient way to discover pain points and optimize the overall flow.

Let’s dive into practical tips to move your customer journey mapping to the next level:

1. Research hard before mapping

Every building needs a foundation. Creating a map with only theoretical assumptions is a waste of time. It is essential to prepare data before you start building the deliverable.

It doesn’t matter if you have a new solution or a stable product with dozens of users. Collect data about the users. This can be done during the usability tests. Prepare the prototype and test scenarios that cover the goals you want to describe in your map.

You may also collect quantitive information from analytical tools, reports or competitor analysis. Try to find out more about user demographics, habits and behaviors that are relevant to the scenario you want to cover in the map.

Collected data helps clarify personas. This representation of a customer is an excellent introduction for the customer journey. With a little dose of empathy, you can easily assign emotions to feedback on a particular solution.

2. Inspect all elements of the user experience with solutions

A good experience map includes detailed touchpoints. They should be granular enough to detect every user action.

If you have an existing solution, the first step to inspecting the elements of a journey is creating User Flows. As mentioned in our article on User Flows or Journey Maps, these are a great introduction to mapping all the touchpoints of your app. Even before you begin the research, you can create and match product screenshot to your User Flow. Then, during the usability test, you can note the observations for each feature. This should help to create a complete map without losing any step in a scenario.

3. Differentiate the popularity of a particular touchpoint

Most maps are linear. But some touchpoints are more popular than others. Example: not everyone fills out the optional text fields in a form. It is essential to focus on those points that occur more often because these are the ones that will shape the experience of most of your users.

I have heard multiple times that designers should focus on the majority of users, but also remember the minority. Less popular touchpoints should not be ignored. After solving the most frequent ones, work to shape the remaining parts of the journey.

4. Focus more on content than on visual appearance

As designers, we love to present our creations aesthetically. You can find multiple beautifully designed maps, but they may end of being completely useless when you begin to analyze them.

Every time you are tempted to beautify your map before you finish mapping all actions and touchpoints, remember why you created it in the first place. These deliverables are not the ones that you should upload to Behance or Dribbble. They should be focused on enhancing the business and user needs.

Personally, I often use a spreadsheet (as a digital tool) or sticky notes (analog tool) to create a map. They are convenient and flexible enough to map all of the needed elements quickly.

If you really would like to have an excellent looking deliverable, enhance the appearance after you finish mapping all of the points.

5. Detect moments of truth

Every path has a moment when a user has to decide if they will leave or continue using the product – this is the moment of truth. Focus on discovering them. If they look like pain points, find a way to turn them into the moments of delight. Moments of truth may be a key to the success of your solution.

This is a similar case to the popularity of the touchpoint. However, moments of truth may not match with the most popular points of the journey.

6. Test and iterate your map

If you made any hypothetical assumptions while experience mapping, create the next iteration and validate these ideas.

The best Customer Journey Maps are always based on real data. While theoretical ones may be useful to plan some behavior of the system, it is crucial to test them in the next step. This way you get proof that the assumptions were reasonable. Working with validated maps brings real value during the experience optimization.

Summing up

User Journey Maps are not just next deliverables to be created during the creative process. They have a purpose: to improve the business and solve user needs. This is why its power is not its appearance, but rather in detailed content combined with knowledgeable conclusions by designers.

The journey map is an analysis of the solution’s current state that leads to optimizations. If you keep this in mind, journey mapping will be much easier.

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Przemyslaw Baraniak Avatar

Przemyslaw Baraniak / Founder @

UX/UI Designer specialized in fintech mobile solutions. Leading - blog with a different look on UX and time-saving tools for designers.