Journey maps are a common UX tool. They come in all shapes, sizes, and formats. Depending on the context, they can be used in a variety of ways. This article covers the basics: what a journey map is (and is not), related terminology, common variations, and how we can use journey maps.
In its most basic form, journey mapping starts by compiling a series of user actions into a timeline. Next, the timeline is fleshed out with user thoughts and emotions in order to create a narrative. This narrative is condensed and polished, ultimately leading to a visualization.
Most journey maps follow a similar format: at the top, a specific user, a specific scenario, and corresponding expectations or goals in the middle, high-level phases that are comprised of user actions, thoughts, and emotions; at the bottom, the takeaways: opportunities, insights, and internal ownership.
For example, imagine the world before the ridesharing market existed (Uber, Lyft, Bird, or Limebike, to name a few). If we were to create an experience map of how a person gets from one place to another, the map would likely include walking, biking, driving, riding with a friend, public transportation, or calling a taxi. Using that experience map we could then isolate pain points: unknown fares, bad weather, unpredictable timing, paying in cash, and so on. Using these pain points, we would then create a future journey map for specific product: how does a particular type of user call a car using the Lyft app?
If journey maps are the children to experience maps, then service blueprints are the grandchildren. They visualize the relationships between different service components (such as people or processes) at various touchpoints in a specific customer journey.
For the Lyft scenario above, we would take the journey map and expand it with what Lyft does internally to support that customer journey. The blueprint could include matching the user to a driver, contacting the driver, calculating fares, and so on.
While, at a glance, a user story map may look like a journey map, journey maps are meant for discovery and understanding (think big picture), while user story maps are for planning and implementation (think little picture).
Although a journey map and user story map may contain some of the same pieces, they are used at different points of the process. For example, imagine our journey map for Lyft indicated that a pain point appeared when the user was in a large group. To address it, the team may introduce a multicar-call option. We could create a user story map to break this feature (multicar call) into smaller pieces, so a product-development team could plan release cycles and corresponding tasks.
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Following on the first article on defining customer experience, this second installment looks at the first essential step of improving the experience you deliver, which is mapping out your customer journey.
If I were a manufacturer, how would I go about understanding the customer journey so I could improve it? Here is a diagram that shows one way of looking at the home theater journey up to the point of getting the gear home:
This is certainly not the only way to create a customer journey. My colleague Gianluca Brugnoli has a nice Slideshare about a customer journey for digital media (including touchpoints, which is the next installment in this series). You can find some other examples at Service Design Tools (software products also), and at This is Service Design Thinking (PDF download). Interaction designer Hugh Dubberly has also written and diagrammed extensively about customer experience, and looked at the customer journey. Treating the journey as a storyboard, complete with photos or sketches of each stage, is a nice way to add more flavor, but is not necessary to get started.
There is no single right way to create a customer journey, and your own organization will need to find what works best for your particular situation. But the frameworks provided here should give you a good head-start at better understanding the journey that your customers travel through as they engage with your company, brand, products, partners, and people.
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After spending time in the Soda Mountain Wilderness, Klamath Basin and Sky Lakes Wilderness south of Crater Lake, OR-7 continued his journey south and became the first wolf confirmed in California in nearly a century. Part of what made OR-7's trek across the state possible were the Wilderness and roadless areas he traveled through, demonstrating the value and worth of large roadless areas to facilitate wildlife corridors (learn more about roadless areas below).
In reality, it is a complex journey that begins when the customer becomes problem-aware (which might be long before they become product-aware) and then moves through an intricate process of further awareness, consideration, and decision-making.
The goal of this data gathering is not simply for the sake of the data itself but to draw insights that help you understand how your customers experience their journeys and identify the potential bottlenecks along the way.
This element of the customer journey map details what a customer does in each stage of the buying process. For example, during the problem-awareness stage, customers might download ebooks or join educational webinars.
As the final element in your customer journey map, solutions are where you and your team will brainstorm potential ways to improve your buying process so that customers encounter fewer pain points as they journey.
A touchpoint in a customer journey map is an instance where your customer can form an opinion of your business. You can find touchpoints in places where your business comes in direct contact with a potential or existing customer.
Your brand exists beyond your website and marketing materials, so you must consider the different types of touchpoints in your customer journey map because they can help uncover opportunities for improvement in the buying journey.
A pain point or a problem is usually the emotional driver of your customer's actions. Knowing this will help you provide the right content at the right time to smooth the customer's emotional journey through your brand.
Reviewing it monthly or quarterly will help you identify gaps and opportunities for further streamlining your customer journey. Use your data analytics along with customer feedback to check for any roadblocks.
These customer journey maps are the most widely-used type. They visualize the actions, thoughts, and emotions your customers currently experience while interacting with your company. They are best used for continually improving the customer journey.
Day-in-the-life maps are best used for addressing unmet customer needs before customers even know they exist. Your company may use this type of customer journey map when exploring new market development strategies.
These customer journey maps begin with a simplified version of one of the above map styles. Then, they layer on the factors responsible for delivering that experience, including people, policies, technologies, and processes.
A clear customer journey map can be shared with your entire organization. The great thing about these maps is that they map out every single step of the customer journey, from initial attraction to post-purchase support.
This customer journey map, designed for Carnegie Mellon University, exemplifies the usefulness of a future state customer journey map. It outlines the thoughts, feelings, and actions the university wants its students to have.
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