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The Key Ingredients of a Journey Map

Dive into the ingredients of a journey map and discover what exactly goes into a journey map and why!

Journey Map Ingredients

We explained in our previous post what a journey map is, when to use one, and how it helps on a redesign. Now we’re going to dive into exactly what goes into a journey map and why. There are must-have and nice-to-have ingredients. We encourage you to get creative in your journey-map kitchen! You can mix and match these ingredients in a way that best suits your project. Rest assured, you do not need to include all the ingredients.

Must Haves

You’re ready! Let’s make a journey map. First you’ll need a few base ingredients. These are items that nearly every journey map includes.

1. Purpose

  • Example: “The current journey for a person who's trying to get certified,” “the ideal journey for our application process.”
  • What it is: This is an intro line or cover page. We typically just write a single line stating the purpose of the map or the question you’re trying to answer.
  • Why include: To give viewers and stakeholders context.

2. Audience

  • Example: College graduates interested in post-grad service, health plan researchers, journalists who cover international development issues.
  • What it is: The people you are targeting for your product.
  • Why include: You should always define the audience type that is taking this journey. In fact, you should define your audiences at the beginning of every user experience project! It’s very hard to maintain focus and define success on a project if you don’t know your audience. This information may come from previous conversations or audience analysis you’ve already completed. Some journey maps show multiple audiences, especially if they have parallel paths, so it’s important to note which journey belongs to who.

3. Phases

  • Example: Awareness, Engagement, Conversion (or name your own phases).
  • What it is: This is a way to group touch points together and indicate where the user is in the journey. Phases are usually listed at the top of the journey map.
  • Why include: Phases help structure the journey map and group similar touch points together. Journey maps can get unwieldy if we don’t add a bit of structure.

4. Touchpoints or Actions

  • Example: Watches a public service announcement on Hulu, conducts a Google search for water resources in Nepal, schedules an appointment, calls the customer hotline.
  • What it is: These are all of the different steps, triggers, actions, and decision points. If you find that you have a huge number of touch points, you may need to further group them into specific steps within that phase.
  • Why include: The main point of a journey map is to organize and define touchpoints.

5. The Path

  • Example: A line indicating how people move from touch point to touch point.
  • What it is: At its simplest, we need to make sure people looking at the journey map can figure out how to move through it! We usually see three types of actions conveyed on the path:
    • Linear: actions completed in a specific order.
    • Nonlinear: actions that don’t need to be done in an exact order, but rather by a certain time.
    • Ongoing: actions completed multiple times before people can move to the next step.
  • Why include: To clarify how people move from step to step. This helps us design an interface that lets people know what to expect as they move through the steps.

Nice-to-Haves

Now that you have the base of your journey map, you can add in extra details that make the most sense for you and your project.

6. Goals

  • Example: Make a purchase.
  • What it is: For each action a user takes, there’s a goal that motivates them.
  • Why include: Knowing the goal that motivates a user’s interaction will help you see whether they succeeded in achieving their goal. A user may be signing up for an account, but only because he needs one to purchase something. So it’s important to note his goal is to purchase a product or you may mistakenly think the goal was for something else like receiving updates.

7. Amount of Time

  • Example: 30 seconds, 5 minutes, 24 hours, 2 weeks (any increment of time!).
  • What it is: Indicate the amount of time each step requires.
  • Why include: See where you can optimize and decrease the amount of time something takes.

8. Channels

  • Example: Online (website/desktop, mobile app) or offline (store, phone, pamphlet).
  • What it is: If your audience’s journey is both offline and online, you would want to show this by indicating what channels the user uses in each step. We often use icons to indicate the different channels.
  • Why include: Identify potential gaps when a person moves between channels.

9. Thoughts

  • Example: “How did I end up here?,” “what does this mean?,” “wait, I thought this was free.”
  • What it is: List out common thoughts and reactions a person may have during the steps/actions. Thoughts are often illustrated using quote marks or speech bubbles. We like to pull in quotes from interviews or surveys completed earlier.
  • Why include: To personalize the journey map and include the audience’s real voice along the way.

10. Emotions

  • Example: Frustrated, bored, confused, excited, annoyed, relieved.
  • What it is: Document the emotions the user may feel during the steps. Emoticons may be used to indicate any emotions the user may feel.
  • Why include: To highlight actions that elicit positive or negative emotions.

11. Positive/Negative Indicators

  • Example: Positive, neutral, or negative.
  • What it is: All actions that a user must do are either positive, neutral, or negative experiences. Show whether or not the steps are positive or negative experiences for the user using color (red/green) or position (higher/lower on y-axis), etc.
  • Why include: To highlight points of pain or delight a person may experience. To note the gaps and opportunities in the user journey.

12. Opportunities

  • Example: User experience, functional, or strategic improvements.
  • What it is: On journey maps that show the current state, we often like to list potential improvements or opportunities. If your list gets long, you may need to list them elsewhere, but it’s often helpful to start writing down ideas early.
  • Why include: Identify areas of improvement, define your next steps, or even add tasks to your to-do list or backlog.

13. Automated System Actions

  • Example: Confirmation email, alerts, notifications, prompts.
  • What it is: These are touch points that are automated or pushed to a user. We often like to highlight them in the journey map because they are explicitly controlled by your systems or organization.
  • Why include: You want the entire picture for a user’s journey, which includes the passive interactions they have with your system.

Finished Product

Journey maps take many forms. The look and feel varies greatly depending on the project and the purpose of each journey map. Here’s an example of a simple journey map with many (but not all the possible) ingredients:

Journey Map Template

Download our Journey Map Worksheet

We’ve also developed an OmniGraffle worksheet for you to use to gather the different elements that you’ll need to create a journey map.

Are there any elements that we haven’t covered in this post that you consider to be important to the development of a journey map? If you’re interested in this exercise, do get in touch with us. We’d love to start developing a journey map for you!

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