A user journey map (also known as a customer journey map) is an invaluable tool for seeing things through the eyes of your users as they interact with your software.

It is often a good method to use after other analysis techniques have taken place. This is because other methods, like an affinity diagram, can bring to light some issues users have that can be depicted in your journey map. Issues you otherwise would have missed if you jumped into creating a user journey map right away.

How to Create a User Journey Map

Creating a user journey map is a relatively quick, straightforward process. But if you’re not too familiar with design tools, most of your time might be spent in Figma, Sketch or one of the many other design tools trying to create one.

You can also create a user journey map on paper, and we in fact recommend you do just that. But ultimately you will want a digital version, as it is easy to update and share. Paper is best used to quickly sketch out the initial journey.

Step 1: Define steps

The first thing you do is define the steps a user goes through as they use the software. So, for example, if a user decides they want to book a flight online, the first step is this realization. The steps that follow are the linear process a user must go through to achieve their goal of booking a flight.

User decides to travel -> Flight search -> Results page -> Fare selection -> Seat selection -> Bag selection -> Flight summary -> Payment

It’s worth noting that not every step in a user journey map needs to involve interaction from the user. However, it is still worth documenting to understand the wider context in which a piece of software is used and thus be able to better design software that fits into that context.

Step 2: Outline goals, behaviors and context

For each step, you look at your research findings to outline and state four things that you must know about your users to design a great product: their goals, behaviors, pain points and the context of use.

You can also include other patterns you saw emerge from your data that became apparent when using other methods to analyze your data.

If we take the example of a user reaching the step of selecting their seat, from our research we can outline the following:

Goals:

  • Select seats if traveling together
  • Skip seat selection if traveling solo

Context:

  • Traveling solo
  • Traveling with others

Behavior:

  • Select seats
  • Skip seat selection
  • Compare differences between seats

Paint points:

  • Differences in seat options not communicated well
  • Must go through same seat selection process for return leg
  • Must pay extra for seat

Mental modes:

  • Expects to see seat configuration
  • Expects to see icon or color-coded differences between the seats
  • Expects seat to be included in the price

Step 3: Assess whether the experience was positive or negative

As a user goes through the process of using a piece of software they may experience a range of emotions.

A user might begin the process all excited at the thought of going on holiday and booking their flights. As they move onto the process of searching for flights, they remain in this positive state due to how well the data is presented and how straightforward everything is.

But when it comes to selecting their seat, they start to get annoyed at how additional charges aren’t communicated well and at how poorly differences between the seats is communicated.

You can assess whether a step of the process is positive or negative simply by using an emoji.

It’s also a good idea to add a direct quote from your research to sum up why a user is experiencing the emotion.

Example

A completed user journey map might look something like this.User Journey Map Example

The Benefits of Creating a User Journey Map

There are 4 main benefits of creating a user journey map.

  • Easy to understand: A user journey map is a visual depiction of the process a user goes through when using software. It is therefore easy to understand whether seen by design or non-design team members. I mean, who doesn’t understand emojis!
  • Easy to share: A journey map only takes up one page, so is easy to share and pass around with other stakeholders
  • User point of view:  As a designer, you are an outsider, not an insider, who must base your research on real patterns you see from real data instead of any assumptions you make. A user journey allows you to do just that by representing software through the eyes of your users
  • Highlights issues: A quick look at your journey map and it soon becomes apparent where your software lives up to your users’ expectation and where it falls short. You can therefore easily see which areas you need to focus on and fix as a priority.