User experience (UX) is a term that incorporates all interactions a person has with a business, its product, and its services. Often conflated with usability and user interface design, it’s what design teams put into service to create solutions that provide a relevant and meaningful experience to prospects.
A fundamental question that any product creator has to answer is: How do individuals actually use our creation? According to the inventor of the term Dan Norman, a product is an integrated and cohesive set of experiences that considers all stages of usage – from the initial iteration through help, service, and maintenance to the final reflections.
Good UX means meeting the specific needs of users within the particular context in which they make use of a said product. In order to achieve this, designers have to understand the entire user experience from the user’s point of view, which is where user journey mapping (UJM) can shed a light on.
In this article, we’ll define what UJM is and explore how it can be used to improve user experience. Specifically, we’ll look at the elements and variations of journey mapping and how product designers can leverage it.
Defining User Journey Mapping
By definition, a user journey map is a visualization of a person’s relationship with the product over time and across channels. It includes a series of actions compiled into a timeline that is next infused with user thoughts and emotions to create a narrative. This narrative is then polished and condensed to create a visualization.
The term user journey map is sometimes used interchangeably with customer journey map. However, while both refer to following an individual as they’re using your product or service, the content within the two maps is different. This is because, for certain products, not all end-users are buyers, but their experience with the product matters.
For example, if you’re a company that offers a software solution for businesses the buyer is the company and the users are the employees. So, if the employees are delighted with your solution they’ll be able to perform their jobs better.
The UJM is a wonderful tool for UX designers because it allows them to have a user-centric approach to product design, thus creating a better user experience. It helps development teams to answer “what if…” questions. It can be useful for measuring performance and, most importantly, it can become the foundation for strategic improvements.
The 5 Key Elements of Journey Mapping
Nonetheless, journey maps come in all shapes, formats, and sizes, and according to NN Group they have 5 key elements in common:
- Actors – The person who the map is about – usually your target persona.
- Scenario and Expectations – The scenario refers to the situation that the map addresses and are linked to your actor’s needs and expectations. It can be real or anticipated.
- Journey Phases – These are the different high-level stages on the map and help organize the rest of the information. They vary depending on the scenario and are determined with the help of data. For example, in a B2B situation, the phases can be purchase, adoption, retention, advocacy.
- Actions, Emotions, and Mindsets – The behaviors, feelings, and thoughts that the actor has a long journey and that are mapped out within each phase.
- Opportunities – The insights gained from the map about how to optimize the user experience.
UX Mapping Methods
The process of developing a journey map requires an aligned mental model of all stakeholders involved in product design and creation and a shared vision is essential. There’s usually a large team of people with different backgrounds, expertise, and experiences who must be on the same page about project goals, user needs, and all processes involved.
There are four types of UX mappings: empathy mapping, customer/user journey mapping, experience mapping, and service blueprinting.
Each builds upon the other to create a fuller understanding of people’s interactions with a business. For the purpose of this article, we will only concentrate on the user journey map.
Improving UX Through Journey Mapping
Journey maps help uncover moments of enjoyment and frustration and provide a holistic view of the user experience. We’ve identified 4 ways through which you can use them to improve this.
1. Understand Who Is Responsible for the UX
User experience is arguably the most important part of developing a product, however when it comes to defining who is responsible for it things get tricky.
According to ElevatedThird, if you ask ten people in an organization “who is responsible for the UX in your company?” chances are you’ll get ten different answers, with at least one being “I don’t know.” In contrast, if you ask who is responsible for the product design you will most likely get consistent answers about which team owns what piece.
Every organization defines its internal UX champion differently. In some cases, there could be a UX team that is part of a larger product and marketing department. In other cases, UX can be muddled with UI and the people responsible for each one may not have clearly distinguished roles.
- The CEO – This is the person who can foster a UX-focused philosophy throughout the whole company. This will help embed user experience into all core processes, making it a priority for leadership and hiring the right people.
- The Product Manager – Product managers need to understand both what they’re offering and who they’re offering it to. They should be able to set up the right foundation so that the entire team can design the best solution.
- The Engineer/Developer – In tech companies or in situations where the product is technical, UX may be owned by the engineering team, since they will be the ones building a solution that can make users happy. In this case, there should be at least one person that is responsible for looking at the bigger picture and making sure all the features work well together.
- The Marketing Manager – They have the benefit of understanding the message and voice of the company as well as the needs and wants of the users. Moreover, they have access to a lot of data, thanks to which they can determine what improvements can have the biggest impact.
- The UX/UI Designer – In some companies, the user experience (UX) and user interface design (UI) roles get combined. However, UX doesn’t equate to UI. A true UX designer looks at data and analytics and is always testing iterations. For someone doing both rules, they should clearly define which parts relate to IX and which to UI.
- The Whole Team – It’s good to get input from all team members but when you do, you should remember that designating a single person to make the final decision it’s important to ensure you’re moving in the correct direction.
Because designing and developing user experience involves different internal stakeholders, there are people all over the organization responsible for that in their own unique ways.
2. Employ System Thinking
Creating a user experience that is clear and consistent is not an easy task. However, if you employ system thinking things become a little easier.
System thinking is about performing problem-solving processes in a complex system. Applied to design, it follows the logic that every decision made will affect past and future decisions and involves closely observing data to identify patterns and anticipate potential trade-offs.
Designers approach every project differently. To ensure that their process is successful it should include a constant awareness of system thinking, which according to UX design includes:
- Automating system-wide changes so things are reusable and rework is avoided.
- Defining the basics (color, spacing, type) before focusing on the details.
- Acknowledging the Butterfly Effect.
- Keeping track of the details without neglecting the bigger picture.
- Consistency is key.
- Finding the balance between flexibility and creativity.
- Being able to explain why the choice you made is the right one.
- Keeping thorough documentation.
A user journey map follows a person when interacting with a product, all touchpoints on the map create an ecosystem of choices. To design a good UX these choices have to live together in harmony. System thinking can assist you because every project is regulated by the system it’s developed on, and if you ignore it you won’t have a solid foundation to build upon.
3. Focus on People
A strong UX strategy requires a human-centric mindset to produce the design. This means developing a framework that can help deliver both a great user and customer experience (UX and CX).
But first, let’s explain the difference between UX and CX. CX combines the individual’s experience across all touchpoints they have had with a brand. While UX presents a focused area on one of those touchpoints.
According to UXplanet, there are 5 key pillars to base your UX strategy on and ensure that your products can successfully solve the needs of your users.
- Understanding the users – Get to know who your users are and what is your product/market fit. You can create personas, use surveys, customer interviews, create empathy maps and needs statements.
- Understanding the products’ value – Identify what makes your business unique, set a clear mission statement, outline your value proposition and test it.
- Knowing how to solve the problem – Analyze what your prospects are currently doing to solve the problems you want to target. Map that journey, find the pain points you can fix, and create a plan.
- Having a clear vision – Know where you’re going so you can focus on the areas that matter most.
- Frequent feedback and iteration – Use data and user interaction insights to obtain continuous feedback so you can iterate and improve.
By involving these five elements you will be able to gain a better understanding of your customers, your product, and your market, while continuously assessing and improving your product experience.
4. Design Honest Products
Honest are those products that instill trust in users by showing transparency and attention to their pain points. This means only making promises that you’re going to keep, showing empathy, and building a loyal audience.
For an honest UX experience, you would need to support your design decisions through user research and testing. With the help of journey mapping, you can learn what your customers need most so you can optimize the value that your product provides.
When exploring your potential opportunities, you can take a product thinking approach.
- First, identify what the problem is. This means understanding who your user is, what they do, and where they encounter problems.
- Then, consider how to solve their problems. Understand the impact the solution has on your prospects and your business, and what will be the risk of this problem isn’t solved.
- Last, investigate possible solutions. Evaluate what is reasonable for your business, the constraints, and does the technology you have to help you achieve such goals.
These points will help you organize your process and encourage team collaboration. They provide a guide for your internal stakeholders to create their own agenda which you can later review together. Make sure to encourage your teammates to provide evidence from user feedback, analytics, or competitor and market research to support their arguments.
If you’d like to get a thorough analysis of the problem, solutions, and opportunities you can use the “5Ws and an H” framework, shown below.
Journey mapping can help you track all touchpoints between your brand and your prospects, so you can uncover gaps and bridge them. It can assist you in creating a great user experience by designing a seamless journey to conversion while providing meaningful solutions to pain points.
To ensure you can successfully leverage UJM to improve your UX there are a few things to keep in mind. You need to understand who in your organization is responsible for the UX and how. Employ effective practices to problem-solving like system thinking. Remember that what you design should ultimately make users’ lives better and be honest with your products.
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