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Improving User Experience Through Journey Maps

Journey maps help us to successfully redesign complicated websites. We work with organizations that have complex systems and many people involved. The flow and overall user experience can work seamlessly if we understand the tasks and touchpoints to refine these interactions. Your main goal is for your audience to successfully interact with your organization. So let’s dive deeper into how a journey map helps us accomplish this!

What Is a Journey Map?

Journeymap

At its simplest, a journey map identifies all the touchpoints a person might encounter while trying to complete a task. User Experience (UX) professionals have a variety of names for journey maps. They vary in detail and focus, but for our purposes, let’s stick with a simple definition.

What Is a Touchpoint?

A touchpoint is any point your organization and a user interact (online or offline). Let’s look at a real-world example: touchpoints you might encounter while commuting on the DC Metro.

Example Tasks & Touchpoints for Your Metro Commute

TASK TOUCHPOINT
Look up directions to destination and choose a route Google map, Metro map (printed), Metro website
Add money to my SmarTrip Card SmarTrip machine (in station), Metro website
Enter Metro station Metro turnstile
Time to the next train Metro train status board, Metro app
What stop are we at? Metro conductor announcements, Phone GPS
When is the Metro closing down this weekend? News, Metro website


A journey map for a metro commute experience would include the list above and probably many more. If the Metro was interested in improving its systems (i.e. increasing the usage of different tools they offer, simply making people’s commutes easier, etc.), its first step would be to document all of the touchpoints on a journey map.

Why Do I Need a Journey Map?

The journey maps we create usually outline the online journey between an organization and its primary audience. Journey maps help us to successfully redesign complicated websites. We work with organizations that have complex systems and many people involved. The flow and overall user experience can work seamlessly if we understand the tasks and touchpoints to refine these interactions. Your main goal is for your audience to successfully interact with your organization. So let’s dive deeper into how a journey map helps us accomplish this!

From Start to End

Every user takes a “journey,” from the moment she first becomes aware of your organization, to the decision points in which she begins to explore what you have to offer, to the conversion endpoints where she becomes more deeply and actively engaged with your organization. By identifying these touchpoints for your various audiences, we discover what actions and content lead your audiences throughout their journeys. We then use a journey map to compile this information in a useful way.

Complete Picture

A journey map is a framework that enables you to improve your customer experience. It documents the customer’s experience through her perspective, ultimately enabling you to best understand how customers are currently interacting with you and identify areas for improvement moving forward. By investing time in understanding the path/journey a customer takes, the people and functions they interact with along the way, and other enablers and obstacles that cross their paths, a journey map will provide a complete picture of the customer experience.

Lots of Variety

Since each journey map is unique to the organization, it can vary widely in what it displays. It can take into account both the online and offline interactions a person may have with your organization. It also highlights your audience members’ goals and how they might go about achieving those goals. Journey maps may display only one audience’s journey or multiple audiences’ journeys.  Additionally, they have varying levels of information - depending on what our research and analysis find. It can include a number of different engagements and touchpoints - there’s no magical number, just whatever fits your organization.

journeymap two

When Should You Use a Journey Map?

Journey maps are most needed in situations where you have:

  • multiple touchpoints (eg. a touchpoint is any time where you and your audience interact)
  • multiple, complex actions (eg. multi-step processes, complicated application processes)
  • multiple people (eg. when there’s hand-off between people in a single process: approvals, reviews, etc; or when multiple people are doing a task at the same time)
  • multiple tools or online and offline activities (eg. when there are multiple tools or sites with which a person may interact in order to complete a task)
  • defined beginning and end (eg. application process, data submission)
  • existing bad experiences (eg. people don’t know what the next step is, aren’t able to efficiently complete a set of steps, or are unaware when efforts are duplicated)

You need to document all of the different touchpoints between the beginning and end of a person’s journey to identify areas that need to be refined and redesigned to ultimately design the smoothest and most intuitive experience.

How Do Journey Maps Help You on a Project?

A journey map helps you:

  • plan your site redesign and updates to account for your organization’s various audiences and their needs at every touchpoint,
  • evaluate an audience’s current journey for gaps or issues,
  • highlight areas of improvement and areas of opportunity throughout your audience members’ current journeys,
  • identify ways to draw the user further into your website/ecosystem or from touchpoint to touchpoint, and
  • question what steps are absolutely necessary to move forward and what are actually potential distractions.

Current vs Ideal

You may also decide to create a journey map for an audience’s “ideal” journey rather than one for their “current” journey. Not sure which to do? Well, we find that journey maps for an audience’s “current” journey are best when we need an inventory of touchpoints. Creating an inventory is only necessary when it’s never been done before or if the material has been updated extensively, thus requiring a new list of touchpoints. The primary goal of a “current” journey map is to be able to identify the problem areas. It is also very helpful if the journey is complex, and we must all be on the same page. On the other hand, creating an “ideal” journey map for an audience provides you an aspirational target. This is most fitting when you’re completely redesigning your site. However, we almost always recommend that you create  a “current” journey map since it’s important to see the disconnects.

In Summary

Not only does this exercise allow us to design a more intuitive system, but it also shows us how to entice our audiences to continue their journeys at each touchpoint and accomplish their goals. A journey map that shows an ideal journey may become your roadmap for future design and development improvements.

If you have a very complex system and people are struggling to navigate your site, please consider creating a journey map to pinpoint your organization’s areas of improvement. Or, better yet, contact us to discuss how a site redesign (and a journey map) could benefit you!

Stay tuned for our follow up post on the “ingredients” of a journey map!

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