When do you use journey maps?

Journey maps are a great way to externalize and communicate the user's behavior and underlying motivation, and as a tool to humanize them. Journey maps help create empathy in teams to ideate against.

A journey map is useful at many stages during the design process to illustrate complicated ideas and processes in a simple, visual way.

  • During research, a journey map can be created to represent the existing user experience and identify gaps, unnecessary complexity, and opportunities to simplify.
  • During solution definition, a journey map can be a great way to illustrate the new and improved end-to-end experience.

What do you include on a journey map?

Character, Setting, and Plot

When creating a journey map, start with information about the persona or user type you are putting through the journey, as well as a scenario to create context.

A good scenario for a journey map occurs over a period of time and includes:

  • A realistic setting for people when they're engaging with your product/service.
  • A situation that includes multiple touch points with people and technology relating to your product/service.
  • A storytelling arc to either highlight a problem or showcase a solution.

Some questions your scenario should answer:

  • How does it start?
  • What's the rising action?
  • What's the peak moment?
  • What's the conflict?
  • How does it resolve?

Head, Heart, Hand

For each step along the way in the scenario, consider vividly how your persona would respond. Incorporate the information gained from user research during this exercise, using even direct quotes and observations that fit the persona type you are mapping out.

The emphasis along the way should be focused on the human experience rather than the technology.

  • Head: What are they thinking?
  • Heart: How are they feeling?
  • Hand: What are they doing?

Through this, we are representing the interconnectivity between a persons actions, thoughts, and external factors. Our information is making the leap to becoming applied knowledge.

Insights & Recommendations

Summarize the highs and lows in the persona's experience, potentially even probing at why you think they occurred. Offer insights and recommendations to make this summary actionable and thought provoking.

How much detail should a journey map have?

As the designer and person telling the user's story, it's up to you how much you want to zoom in or out. What's the ideal amount of detail needed for the goals of your project? You can choose to zoom in and be very focused and nuanced on this person's experience, or zoom out to provide high level context.

How do you use a journey map?

Now that you've created a journey map, don't let it collect dust in a repository somewhere. Print it out, and hang it up. Pin them in your slack channel. Keep them accessible for reference on a page in your design file.

Using research artifacts like Journey Maps are often a big sticking point for teams. Here are some exercises to get you unstuck:

Exercise 1: Opportunities to go after

Focus in on a high point in the journey map (or across several journey maps) and ask:

  • How could we bring it higher in the experience?
  • How might we bring it forward in the experience?

Exercise 02: Problems to solve for

Focus in on a low point in the journey map (or across several journey maps) and ask:

  • How could it have been avoided altogether?
  • How might we help them recover, faster?

Exercise 03: Greatest gifts & threats

Reflect on the journey maps and ask the team to create hypotheses that resolve the following questions:

  • What would be the greatest gift to this persona during this experience? Then ideate around ways to give them those gifts.
  • What is the greatest threat to this persona's experience? Then ideate around ways to keep this threat at bay.

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