5 steps to building an effective user journey

Workflows make the world go round. Okay, maybe not. But they sure do make everything easier.

Tasmin Lofthouse working from a cafe

Tasmin Lofthouse

5 steps to building an effective user journey


Oct 24, 2022

Last Edited

Oct 19, 2023

Read Time

4 mins


User Experience

Having set processes and practices increases productivity and efficiency. Better yet, it reduces mistakes, frustration and confusion. What’s not to love about that?

Our love of standardised workflows expands to user journey maps.

Every user journey is unique. Yet, there are common frameworks that underlay any user journey map. These commonalities are the foundations for building powerful user journeys… and we’re ready to let you in on the (not so) secret steps.

5 steps to building an effective user journey

User journeys are wonderfully varied. From short, simple user flows with a clear A to B route to winding and complex user journey maps with many twists and turns.

Whatever journey someone embarks on, we’re here to make it as easy as possible for them to reach their end-goal. As UX designers, we’ve got our finger on the pulse of user journey mapping.

Before you start building any kind of user experience, you first need to understand how to narrow the gap between users’ needs and your product offering. That’s where our five steps to building effective user journeys come into play.

1. Focus on a single action

The best user journey maps focus on one action at a time. This action represents the end-goal your user intends to reach. Some examples here would be: updating their payment details, contacting support, or creating a new task in the tool.

Remember to include goals related to the user action too.

Let’s say you have a SaaS app for handling customer service requests. In this scenario, your user (the customer service rep) might be focused on completing more customer service enquiries everyday. The action, therefore, is to increase the number of completed customer services enquiries.

But, the overarching goal is to increase customer satisfaction rates. You don’t just want users to whizz through hundreds of customer service enquiries providing subpar support. The user journey map should focus on how to increase the number of completed enquiries without compromising on quality.

2. Keep it simple

User journeys can get complex, fast.

Complex user journeys can be overwhelming. To stop you getting lost in the weeds, we recommend starting with the most simple version of the user flow. After that, you can layer in complexity by building a more in-depth user journey map that accounts for all kinds of ‘what if scenarios’.

Don’t try to get the user journey map done in one sitting. User journeys can be complex. Factor in the time to create a first draft, step away, and revise things. Stepping back prevents your decisions from being clouded by being too close to the product.
- David, UX Designer

You might start with a user journey that simply takes users from A (their start-point) to B (their end-point). Overtime, this user journey map will grow new branches as you uncover any diversions, back steps, or new routes users take on their journey to reaching the end-point.

3. Identify the steps

As part of your user journey research, it’s your duty to identify the steps someone takes to achieve the desired action.

Much like a choose your own adventure book, there can be several paths a user can go down during their journey. Consider the various pathways people could take to achieve their goals.

Screenshot of the user flow for Opera.When identifying the steps, make sure the start and end points are easily recognisable. You can use data-gathering techniques such as behaviour recordings, user interviews, and online analytics to highlight common entry and exit points in the user journey.

Speaking with users and analysing the collected data will help you add deeper context to their actions. Pair these user interview insights with quantitative data collected from user behaviour recordings and web analytics.

Don’t rely on only one source. Doing this could skew your user journey map causing it to be led by biases. Instead, gather as much information as possible from as many places as possible. Use this information to identify vital steps that need to be included in the user journey map.

4. Consider the needs of different users

Not every user has the same goals. And not every user approaches their goals in the same way. Take the needs and behaviour of different users into account when building your user journey map.

Don’t just rely on data from one user. Speak to multiple people across different user types to ensure you’ve covered all use cases.

For each user, map out any differences in their user journey, adding in alternative pathways where certain users may approach the task differently.

Continually analyse your user journey map to validate or disprove steps. Have multiple users test your user flow to see what changes need making, which steps or missing, or where unnecessary steps have been added.

When it comes to building user journeys, we use a cyclical approach where everything is being optimised concurrently. Accounting for the needs of different users feeds into this iterative process of optimisation. Iterating and improving your user flow means you’ll build a well-rounded user journey map that takes all user nuances into account.

5. Don’t be afraid to silo your user flows

For many apps and websites, having one master user flow can do more harm than good.

Rather than trying to shoehorn every possible scenario in a single, super intricate flow, break them into smaller, more manageable user journey maps. These smaller user journey maps can then all fit together to create a master flow — but without the mental overhead of something that looks like spaghetti thrown at the wall.

Let’s take your marketing website as an example. Different users will all use your website differently. From customers to developers, marketers, sales teams, and stakeholders — everyone has a different goal when using your site. Having one master flow that incorporates all users, behaviours, and actions will quickly get messy. Crucial elements will be missed.

iPad with the hand written User Flow.Break your user flow down into silos based on different user types then bring them all together again as a collection of hyper focused user journey maps.

Final thoughts on building effective user journeys

There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to building effective user journey flows. As such, it’s easy to get carried away trying to account for every possibility at once.

Every user's journey starts somewhere. So, it only makes sense that your process for mapping out user journeys has an easily-identifiable starting point too.

Maintain focus on the factors that matter by honing in on one singular goal per user journey map. Start simple then build this user journey out to include the needs and actions of other users aiming for the same goal. Finally, silo your user journey map into smaller user flows for different user types.

Keep reiterating and optimising your user journey map to ensure you are capturing the most important elements. You can then use your user journey map to make meaningful changes to your site, app and user experience.

User journey maps are proven frameworks for driving greater user insights, increasing conversions, and identifying opportunities for improvement. They let you get into the minds of your users and understand your product from their perspective.

Reach out today to learn how we can optimise your user experience and bring your business greater results with effective user journey maps.

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