User Experience

6 min read

Improve UX with user journey mapping

Have you ever entered a room and forgotten why you went in there? Next thing you know, you’re doing laps around your house trying to remember your purpose in life. Frustrating, right?

Screenshot of the Site Map for Opera.

Written by

Tasmin Lofthouse - Content & Marketing

Tasmin Lofthouse

Published on

18 October, 2022

If you haven’t clearly mapped out the user journeys of your website or app that’s how your users feel. Just aimlessly clicking from one page to another.

User journey maps are necessary for revealing typical user experiences (UX) and understanding how people use your product, site, or app. 

What is a User Journey?

A user journey visually represents the steps someone takes when completing a specific task.

User journeys are everywhere. Every time you interact with a product or service, you embark on a user journey.

Picture this: it’s the weekend and you’re in the mood for a takeaway. Before you chow down on some delicious food, you embark on a journey of:

  1. Open food delivery app
  2. Narrow results by location
  3. Browse results for restaurants that pique your interest
  4. Check the menu and reviews for selected restaurants
  5. Choose dishes and add chosen meals to your basket
  6. Review order
  7. Checkout and pay
  8. Wait for order to be delivered
  9. Receive order 
  10. Tuck in to your food

Ordering takeaway doesn’t feel like a 10-step process. Yet, anyone ordering takeaway will go through some kind of user journey before diving into their tasty doorstep delivery.

Whether it’s ordering a takeaway, paying a bill, or using an online tool for research, we experience user journeys all the time.

The stages of a user journey

User journeys have multiple stages which identify a moment where a user interacts with your brand, product, or service. 

Break the user journey down into key stages based on typical user behaviour and goals. These stages will vary depending on the journey itself.
In the takeaway example shared above the stages might include:

  1. The initial trigger for the decision to order takeaway
  2. Browsing the app
  3. Placing an order
  4. Waiting for the delivery
  5. Post-delivery actions of eating food, leaving a review, and cleaning up

You might find you have multiple user journeys based on different user types or goals.

Creating a user journey map lets you understand the scenario from your users perspective. You’ll have a deeper level of empathy for your users as you gain a true understanding of their needs, goals, and experiences.

How the user journey impacts UX

Map out typical user journeys to tap into a deeper understanding of your users and how to improve their UX.

People don’t always act the way we expect them to. User journeys take the guesswork out of user behaviour by providing a visual representation of how users typically engage with your product or service.

Armed with your user journey map, you can make informed improvements to your site or app UX as you make processes more user-centric. 

How can we build a user journey?

User journeys come in many shapes and sizes but they are usually represented by some form of timeline (often a flow chart) of the steps a user experiences on the way toward achieving their goal. 

First, define the scope of the user journey map. Then, dissect the journey into individual steps and put yourself in the shoes of different users to understand their goals.

iPad with the hand written User Flow.
  1. Focus on a single action - The best user journeys focus on a singular goal at once so you can create hyper-focused solutions
  2. Keep it simple - User journeys can get complex so start with the most simple flow possible then add more in-depth details as you go along
  3. Identify the steps - Take into account all of the various pathways users may take to achieve their goal and include these steps in your user journey map
  4. Consider the needs of different users - Not all users are created equal so adapt the user journey to account for different users’ needs
  5. Don’t be afraid to silo your user flows - Having one master flow could do more harm than good so don’t be break your user flow into smaller, more manageable journey maps

“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 at Skyward

Every user journey is different so approach each one with a curious mind. Consider the exact needs of your audience and be sure to back up any decisions with data. Heatmaps, user interviews, and web analytics all offer powerful insights into user behaviour.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to build user journeys that prioritise a user-centric mentality. Building an effective user journey map lets you understand exactly how to improve UX so your users can easily achieve their goals.

Case Study: Improving Blackwood’s UX with user journey mapping

Challenge

Blackwood are staffing specialists for enterprise corporations who have spent over a decade building their internal software. Over time, this software became bloated with layers upon layers of information and no clear pathways from points A to B.

New employees had to tackle a steep learning curve while even experienced employees found their interactions took too long or could easily result in mistakes.

Objective

Our main goal was to simplify the application for all users while retaining all the current information.

Action

We went to Blackwood’s office to speak with employees and observe app usage. This gave us first-hand insight into users’ needs, motivations, and challenges. We could also observe current user experiences and map out the existing user journeys.

We sent out a questionnaire to the entire team to better understand their thoughts on the current application too.

We had a good understanding of how people currently used the app and where they experienced friction. We also knew some of the typical goals people had. Armed with this information, we could create new and improved user journey maps.

That said, we never worked on user journeys in isolation. We worked on the user journey, sitemap and user interface (UI) in tandem. As we uncovered steps in the user journey, we made logical changes to the sitemap, tweaked the UI, and visa versa. It created a cyclical effect where everything was being optimised concurrently rather than linearly. This method meant no stone was left unturned.

Screenshot of the user flow for Opera.

It was important we didn’t become clouded by our knowledge of the issue or complacent with our designs. So, we constantly questioned the changes being made and looped them back to what impact they will have on the user, and how they will support the user journey. We also kept the client informed of any changes, making sure we got buy-in when delivering our ideas and amendments.

Looking at the sitemap on a granular level let us dig into the bones of the project and see what worked best from a user perspective. While the sitemap told us what information should be included where, the user journey told us where people went, and the user interface visually demonstrated how to display the information.

Results

Our circular approach of working on the user journeys, sitemap and UI concurrently allowed us to tackle this complex project as efficiently as possible. Together, these three elements improved the user experience.

We could easily create new iterations that brought us closer to the end-goal, while ensuring we didn’t focus too heavily on any one component. As a result, we were able to build a unified app design that made it quick and easy for users to complete actions.

We plan to test the success of our changes by watching users using the newly-designed interface before full release. Observing usage lets us test how the new user journey maps have impacted app use. We expect to see faster task completion and increased efficiency as people can seamlessly navigate the app.

How can we be certain we’ve achieved our goal?

If you want to be absolutely certain you achieved your goal, you need data.

If you’re a small start-up wanting to keep costs and resources low, start small. Think like your users. More importantly, speak to them. Ask for their input and preferences. Do small-scale testing of changes informed by user journeys. Watch how users interact with your product before and after the changes to see how user behaviour has changed.

Medium to large businesses can test performance on a larger scale. Set up focus groups to watch user behaviour in real-time and note any significant or unexpected behaviour. Ask users to complete feedback forms where they can share their issues and preferences.

Pair qualitative user insights with quantitative data from analytic sources. Track user journey funnels to see where users typically drop-off. Analysing why and where people drop off helps you plug any gaps and strengthen the user journey.

UX is more about answering questions than anything else. You need to foresee how users will respond to changes. If you want to be certain you’ve achieved your goal of improving UX with user journeys, you need to put your changes to the test.

Final thoughts — Using user journeys to improve UX

There you have it — user journeys are incredibly powerful for UX. Failing to consider user journeys in UX design can alienate users and create unnecessary friction. 

If you really want to improve UX with user journey mapping, you need to challenge your preconceptions, test results and continually make updates. User journeys are valuable for UX design. But, it’s crucial to remember user journeys are guides. They don’t guarantee results. 

The best way to create user journeys is to speak with your users, gather data, and maintain a curious mind as you work through the UX design process.

Want to hand your user journey mapping over to a team of UX experts? Get in touch to discuss your project and see how we can help.

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