A Beginner’s Guide To User Journey Mapping

To design a great product, you need to understand what the user does with it. A user journey map will help you to answer that question for the product’s entire lifecycle.

Written by Nick Babich
Published on Apr. 06, 2022
A Beginner’s Guide To User Journey Mapping
Brand Studio Logo

“How do people actually use this product?” is a fundamental question that every product creator must answer. In order to do so, product designers need to understand the essence of the whole product experience from the user’s perspective. Fortunately, user journey mapping is an excellent exercise that can shed light on the ways in which the users interact with the product.

What Is a User Journey Map?

A user journey map is a visualization of an individual’s relationship with a product/brand over time and across different channels. Although these maps come in all shapes and formats, they’re most commonly represented as a timeline of all the touchpoints between a user and a product. This timeline contains information about all channels that users employ to interact with a product.

More From Nick BabichWhat Is Microcopy?


What Design Problems Does a User Journey Map Solve?

A user journey map is an excellent tool for UX designers because it visualizes how a user interacts with a product and allows designers to see a product from a user’s point of view. This fosters a more user-centric approach to product design, which ultimately leads to a better user experience.

User journey maps help a product team to find the answer to the “What if?” questions. Also, a user journey map can be helpful when a company tracks quantitative key performance indicators. In this case, a user journey map can become a cornerstone for strategic recommendations.


The 8-Step Process of User Journey Mapping

Before creating a user journey map, review the goals of your business or service. This knowledge will help you align the business and user goals.

The 8-Step Process of User Journey Mapping

  1. Choose a scope.
  2. Create a user persona.
  3. Define the scenario and user expectations.
  4. Create a list of touchpoints.
  5. Take user intention into account.
  6. Sketch the journey.
  7. Consider a user’s emotional state during each step of the interaction.
  8. Validate and refine the user journey.


1. Choose a Scope

The scope of the user journey map can vary from a high-level map that shows end-to-end experience (e.g., creating a smart home in your house) to a more detailed map that focuses on one particular interaction (for instance, adding a new device to your smart home ecosystem).


2. Create a User Persona

Who is your user?

A user journey map is always focused on the experience of one main actor — a user persona who experiences the journey.

A user persona should always be based on information that you have about your target audience. That’s why you should always start with user research. Having solid information about your users will prevent you from making false assumptions.

Gather and analyze all available information about your target audience:

  • Interview your real or potential users.
  • Conduct contextual inquiry. This is an ethnographic field study that involves in-depth observation of people interacting with your product.
  • Conduct and analyze the results of user surveys.


3. Define the Scenario and User Expectations

The scenario describes the situation that the journey map addresses. It can be real or anticipated. It’s also important to define what expectations a user persona has about the interaction. For example, a scenario could be ordering a taxi using a mobile app with the expectation of getting the car in five minutes or less.


4. Create a List of Touchpoints

Touchpoints are user actions and interactions with the product or business. You need to identify all the main touchpoints and all channels associated with each touchpoint. For example, for the touchpoint “Buy a gift,” the associated channels could be purchasing online or buying in the store.


5. Take User Intention Into Account

What motivates your user to interact with your product? Similarly, what problem are users looking to solve when they decide to use your product? Different user segments will have different reasons for adopting it.

Let’s take an e-commerce website. There is a big difference between a user who is just looking around and one who wants to accomplish a specific task like purchasing a particular product.

For each user journey, you need to understand:

  • Motivation. Why are the users trying to do this action?
  • Channels. Where the interaction takes place.
  • Actions. The actual behaviors and steps the users take.
  • Pain points. What are the challenges users are facing?

Also, ensure that the user is getting a consistent experience across all channels.


6. Sketch the Journey

Put together all the information you have and sketch a journey in the format of a step-by-step interaction. Each step demonstrates an experience that the persona has with a service/product or another person.

You can use a tool called a storyboard, which is a graphic representation of how a user does something, step by step. It can help you show how users can interact with a product. Using storyboards, you can visually depict what happens during each step.


7. Consider a User’s Emotional State During Each Step of the Interaction

What does a user feel when interacting with your product?

The products we design need to mirror the states of mind of our users. When we consider a user’s emotional state, this knowledge will help us to connect with them on a human level. That’s why it’s important to add an emotional lane to the user journey map. By visualizing the emotional ups and downs of the experience, you’ll find the areas that require refinement.

You can create an empathy map to better understand how the user feels. Try to mitigate the emotional downs and reinforce emotional ups with good design. 


8. Validate and Refine the User Journey

Journey maps should result in truthful narratives, not fairy tales. Even when a user journey is based on research, you must validate it. Use the information from usability testing sessions and app analytics to be sure that your journey resembles a real use case.

Gather and analyze information about your users on a regular basis. For example, user feedback can be used to improve your understanding of the user journey.

More in Design + UXHey Designers, Stop Using Users


Map the User Journey

Remember that the goal of making a user journey map is to create a shared vision within your product team and stakeholders. That’s why, once you create a user journey map, you should share it with your peers. Make it possible for everyone in your team to look at the entire experience from the user’s standpoint and draw on this information while crafting a product.

Hiring Now
Cox Enterprises
Automotive • Greentech • Information Technology • Other • Software