A Quick Guide to User Journey Mapping

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    Home / Product / A Quick Guide to User Journey Mapping

    Can you tell what's wrong with this ⬇️ meme?

    Users are too unstable?

    Users don't care about reaching value?

    Users have a very short attention span?

    I bet those are interesting research points but hey, I wouldn't know 🤷

    What I do know though, is:

    If we hardly ever know what our users are precisely thinking (which we could possibly never do)...

    Why don't we focus more on the part we can 100% change and improve?

    My hot take is:

    👉 Not reaching the value is never the users' fault.

    It is yours.

    And today, we are solving that issue by taking a look at the very best solution to that.

    Let's go over:

    👉 What user journey map is,

    👉 What the difference between a customer journey map, buyer journey map, and user journey map is,

    👉 Why a good user journey map is a game changer,

    👉 How to create a great user journey map with best practices & tips


    • A user journey map is a visual representation of the experience users go through interacting with your product.
    • User journey maps, along with buyer journey maps, make up the entire customer journey maps.
    • Some important components of user journey maps are user personas, scenarios & expectations, journey phases, actions, mindsets, emotions, and opportunities.
    • User journey maps are important because their visualization of the user experience helps teams get on the same page and get teams working more in sync which potentially increases user satisfaction, user retention, and user loyalty.
    • The right time to start creating a user journey map is as soon as possible, as it is a great help for all teams.
    • Some best practices when creating user journey maps are:
    1. Knowing your product
    2. Drawing out personas
    3. Set the scenario & expectations
    4. Defining each journey stage & touchpoint
    5. Collect user and team feedback
    6. Putting it all together
    7. Trying out the map for initial fixes
    8. Determining pain points & resolving them
    9. Updating & testing regularly

    Let's start with the definitions ⬇️

    What is a User Journey Map?

    A user journey map, often also referred to as a user experience map, is a visual representation of the entire experience a user goes through as they perform a series of interactions with the product at hand. User journey maps are a go-to part of any customer journey design and are heavily intertwined with the buyer experience, especially in SaaS businesses and digital products.

    So, in short, the user journey map visualizes your users’ all interaction points with your platform on a diagram.

    It is a sequence of steps showing how your users engage with your product or service.

    Various UX elements and customer touchpoints are involved in this journey to reach the end goal.

    But let's also discuss a question that confuses many:

    What is the difference between customer journey maps vs user journey maps vs buyer journey maps?

    The difference between the journey maps we know is not necessarily complex.

    Customer journey maps often describe the entire customer journey, encompassing the buyer experience and the user experience.

    As such, the buyer journey often takes place first, followed by the user journey.

    And often, they get intertwined in the middle.

    This is mostly the case for products with a freemium or a free trial.

    customer journey map vs user journey map vs buyer journey map

    The main point is, user journey maps aren't too different than customer journey maps since they are a part of the latter.

    Same goes for buyer journey maps as well.

    User journey map example - what does it look like?

    Before we look at a user journey map example or a customer journey map template, it is important to be aware of the components that make up a journey map.

    Let's take a look ⬇️

    1- Customer/User/Buyer Persona

    Call it what you will - buyer, user, customer persona or John Doe - is one of the main components of a customer journey map as well as a user journey map.

    Without taking your user persona or user type into account, it is essentially harder to reach a deeper understanding of your current experience for your customer base.

    And for potential customers.

    So, first things first, set your main actor and let's start.

    2- Scenario/Environment + Expectations

    After deciding the most typical actors in your customer base, it is time to decide the rest of the story.

    👉 So, what is John Doe experiencing?

    👉 How did he find the product? Is he on a freemium or free trial?

    👉 What are your most common customer pain points and is John experiencing them?

    Bu,t more importantly, you have to answer the question of what are the customer expectations ⬇️

    👉 What does John Doe expect to achieve with your product or service?

    👉 What does he expect to come across?

    👉 Does he expect additional touchpoints?

    Overall, what is your customer's perspective while inside the product?

    3- Journey Phases

    Journey phases or journey stages refer to the stages of mapping that users go through throughout their customer life cycle phases.

    For example, in customer journey mapping, these stages can be:

    1️⃣ Awareness

    2️⃣ Consideration

    3️⃣ Acquisition

    4️⃣ Usage

    5️⃣ Customer Loyalty

    When it comes to user journey mapping, the phases heavily depend on the product experience, as well as the customer journey touchpoints at hand.

    For example, a user journey map example with stages could be:

    1️⃣ Signup/Sign-in

    2️⃣ Initial Onboarding

    3️⃣ Aha! Moment(s)

    4️⃣ Continuous Onboarding

    5️⃣ User Loyalty/ Social Proof

    But as I said just now, staging for a user journey definitely depends on your own product and business goals above all else.

    4- Actions, Mindsets, Emotions

    After setting your map stages, the next step is to explore your customer actions, mindsets, and emotions.

    👉 Actions represent the actual actions your users take throughout the journey.

    👉 Mindsets represent your users' motivations and thoughts throughout the journey.

    👉 Emotions represent the emotional highs and lows of the user journey. 

    5- Opportunities

    Lastly, opportunities is a conclusion that can be drawn from the user journey mapping, and it points to the "what's next?"

    Some data to be reached here are:

    👉 Metrics to use to measure success

    👉 Insights that can help enhance the current customer experience & user experience map

    👉 More defined methods for customer retention, customer satisfaction & customer engagement

    Here is a general look at a mock user journey map ⬇️

    user journey map template

    The user journey map might show the whole process of discovery to acquiring the desired value from the product, and loyalty...

    Or it might map out a specific part like from discovery to receiving the product they order.

    Therefore, a diagram may be a sophisticated or simplified one according to your company’s goals and needs.

    For example, if you have an e-commerce website, a user journey map shows your customers’ discovery of the site by word of mouth to their reception of the order.

    Through this narrative map, you can analyze users’ motives, goals, and emotions with your brand.

    Now, if the shapes and colors are clear in our heads, let's move on to our next question:

    Why is User Journey Mapping important?

    If you've seen my points above, you'd know just how much a user journey map matters.

    But if I am being straight, the main reason is:

    👉 User journey maps allow companies to look at the user experience from the customer perspective.

    With a well-designed user journey map, you can discover:

    What value are the users interested in,

    How they are expecting to achieve it, and

    How they can actually achieve it (or can’t achieve it) with your product or service

    And way more!

    👉 A user journey map includes all departments of the company, from marketing, and the entire product team, to sales, and customer service teams, in the process of coming up with a smoother user experience. 

    Active or not, the entire company comes to have a better understanding of the responsibility they have in the end-to-end process.

    👉 An effective user journey map also has an effect on saving time and resources.

    Through a better understanding of the entire customer experience that's been established, teams can easily pinpoint the bottlenecks in workloads and decrease wasted times and resources.

    👉 Customer support teams and sales can also be more prepared for potential customer problems as well as potential customer touchpoints, most of which often coincide with their work.

    what is user journey mapping

    So, tiny TL;DR, user journey maps might often be associated with only the product teams but when the benefits are laid down, user journey maps help other teams as well by:

    ✅ Defining target customer goals & routes better,

    ✅ Foreseeing a sequence of events after the acquisition,

    ✅ Drawing out customer feelings which increases empathy for customers,

    ✅ Helping with the allocation of customer surveys, the customer onboarding process, and upgrade opportunities, and

    ✅ Overall, potentially increasing user satisfaction, retention, and product engagement

    And those, folks, are only a few reasons to map out your user journey.

    But then, when?

    When is the right time to create a User Journey Map?

    We know just how useful a user journey map is now.

    So the right answer to this question from a commonsensical perspective is:


    The moment you start designing any UX or customer experience, having a user journey mapped out is essential.

    So, whatever is the earliest time you can get on with it, get on with it.

    Put your designers or product team on the task, but don't forget to integrate the other teams in the long run.

    It's a team sport 🫡

    How to Create a User Journey Map in 9 Steps

    The theory is over.

    Let's see how a user journey map is created in real life with some real best practices.

    how to map the user journey

    1- Know your product

    Everything starts with your product.

    And without fully understanding its intricacies, creating a user journey map can even harm you.

    And yes, even if you are the founder or the CEO, I still advise making sure you actually *know* your product.

    There are far too many examples of businesses that achieved success AFTER realizing their product's value proposition, messaging, or positioning was not right.

    Make sure you actually know what your product is capable of and that you are in the right market.

    Then proceed to ⬇️

    2- Draw out the personas & who you are targeting

    It is now time to go over the components of your user journey.

    Now, as user journey maps are a part of the customer journey maps that you might have already mapped out, this part might sound easy.

    But don't underestimate it.

    Depending on your product, the buying journey map might be very different from the user experience journey map.

    And it is your responsibility to make sure your personas - both buyer personas and user personas - are correctly set.

    So then, how?

    Think about the demographics of your target audience.

    You need to understand who you are you working for, what they are expecting, and what they are willing to pay for your product or service.

    • What are their age, location, occupation, income, and education level?
    • What devices do they use?
    • What are their values?
    • What do they need to solve their problem?
    • What are their motivations?
    • What are their habits?

    Interview customers and identify common patterns among them.

    Further, divide them into categories.

    Come up with 3-5 different personas that you can create a different path for.

    3- Set the scenario & expectations

    After you have decided your user persona to go, you can start writing a story around it.

    Ask yourself a couple of questions to easily start off with it:

    👉 How was the buyer journey for the user? Were the key touchpoints successful?

    👉 Are they experiencing the product as a freemium, or have they made a purchase?

    👉 What are their initial and long-term expectations from your product?

    👉 How can you show users quickly that you can meet expectations? How can you actually meet expectations?

    Once you have all the answers to these questions and your own questions, depending on your own planning, you can move onto ⬇️

    4- Define each journey stage and touchpoint

    Once you decide who the actor of your user journey is, you can start out with the phases they will go through.

    Now, remember:

    Once they step inside the app, every second counts.

    Just scroll back up for the meme and you'll get what I mean 🤷

    To make sure your users are actually going through the desired user experience, you have to be very careful in staging the user journey map.

    👉 Start by deciding what your priorities are, then shorten them.

    For example, a seamless sign-up process, the initial onboarding sequence with a product tour or interactive guides, and the aha! moments should all be accounted for.

    And then optimized for the best experience.

    👉 Consider the mindsets, emotions, anticipated user actions, and customer sentiments at each stage.

    If a customer is likely to be frustrated at a certain stage, special care can be needed in the design process.

    5- Collect user feedback AND team feedback

    Preferably before you are done with the mapping process, collecting user data and feedback can help optimize the journey.

    👉 If you are just launching a new product, your beta experience can be a good source of customer feedback.

    👉 But if the product already exists and you are creating a new user journey map, you might want to create a test group of users instead.

    Better yet, you can benefit from the suggestions of your teammates and other departments.

    👉 For example, a product team designing the user journey map can benefit from the input of the sales reps for more insight into how the buyer journey went or from prospective customer interviews.

    👉 Similarly, your customer service representatives can help with envisioning the customer phases and the future customer journeys in the event of customer support as well as what counts as a bad experience.

    6- Put it all together 

    Once each component of the user journey map is set, it is time to bring it all together.

    If you can make out a smooth user flow by looking at your user journey map, then you are good.

    But at the same time, make sure that the map is easy to comprehend for all.

    As we've mentioned above, you might need to have other team members and different departments interacting with it. 

    Keeping the technicalities clear can only help.

    7- Give it a go yourself

    Now that you have your finished product at hand, it is time to test it.

    And if you can't go through it with ease yourself, it might be too early to expect others to do so.

    To avoid problems and wasting more time, make sure you yourself can easily go through the user journey you have designed.

    What you want to be careful about include:

    ✅ The ease of signup and the time it takes to signup securely,

    ✅ The progression of initial user onboarding and the time it takes to complete,

    ✅ How long it takes for users to reach the first aha! moment and the interval in between if there are other aha! moments

    And other criteria that might root in the nature of your product.

    Now, if you dive deep, you will come across a couple of things you might want to make changes to, such as...

    8- Determine pain points & resolve them

    No user journey map is perfect.

    And if you have looked into it deeply enough, there is a chance that you have found key interactions that might cause friction.

    A.K.A, user pain points.

    Quick reminder: we create user journey maps to avoid user pain points.

    So if you think there might be a user flow that increases friction in your user journey, the map is the best place to pinpoint it and resolve it.

    Now, remember how we tried to make it clear for different teams?

    That's gonna be helpful now.

    Simply go to the team and ask for feedback.

    👉 If the pain point occurs during signup, it might be the website admin or the product team you might wanna talk to.

    👉 If the problem happens at user onboarding, you might ask customer success managers for help.

    👉 User loyalty and social proof problems might require the attention of marketing or sales.

    Just make sure you talk to the right people, then it gets relatively easier to handle any problem when designing the map for the first time or when updating it.

    9- Update & Test Regularly

    When all is said and done, you'll have the best version of a user journey map.

    But for it to stay its best version, it needs to be updated regularly.

    And to know whether it is time to update, you need to test regularly as well.

    So at this point of the user journey map creation, what matters is to be aware of your user journey and how it might change in the long term.

    The secret of the best user journey map is regular tests and updates.

    Make sure you reevaluate at reasonable intervals!

    One last question, though: 

    What’s Next?

    After creating a user journey map you might wanna go over and beyond with better UX.

    And if I know anything about in-app experiences...

    You'll find your UX is okay.

    But your onboarding UX might not be that good.

    Why settle with user manuals - that users hate -  when you can gamify and reduce friction with user checklists, in-app surveys, and interactive guides?

    Without writing one single line of code?

    Here's where to start for free ⬇️

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