What Is a user journey mapping and why is it Important?

  • Mar 15, 2023
  • By: Slick
  • 8 min read

A user journey map, or a customer journey map, is a visual representation of a user’s experiences as they interact with a product or service.


    A user journey map, or a customer journey map, is a visual representation of a user’s experiences as they interact with a product or service. The journey map encompasses all touchpoints within these interactions. A journey map goes beyond showing the clicks and screens that a user views, and includes the motivations, pain points, and moments of delight that they experience along the way. It is a way to tell the story of how your users actual experience a product from a wholistic perspective. This story is usually told through a flow chart or diagram, and it is an important deliverable in UX Research. The map is a deliverable itself, and the map should be based on user research data, particularly qualitative data insights from user interviews, user testing, and other methods of UX Research.

    User journey mapping should be done as a collaborative effort between team members involved in UX Research and product design. It benefits the team members by aligning team members on what the actual user experience with the product is, challenging the assumptions of the team. This document can be shared to team members outside of the direct product design team as well and serve as a point of shifting the organizational perspective on the product to a more user-centered focus. It is a jumping off point from which team members can identify the pain points a user is experiencing, the moments of joy they are experiencing, and where areas of the product can be improved, enhanced, or redesigned.

    Customer journey mapping should be done after other UX Research methods such as persona development and user interviews. A user’s journey through the product most likely varies across different personas, so it is important to identify the persona that you are representing, and to include specific evidence from user interviews and other qualitative and quantitative data metrics when presenting the deliverable. User journey mapping can be performed at many times in the product development lifecycle. In the discovery phase, user journey mapping can inform the team of the user’s current state and where there are opportunities to solve their problems.

    Next, we’ll cover the steps to creating and using a customer/user journey map.

    User journey journey mapping plan by Walker.

    Define research objectives

    The first step when creating any UX Research or Design deliverable is to define the objectives and purpose. There are many goals that can be achieved through creating a user journey map.  One of the most common goals of the user journey map is to identify pain points in the user’s experience. In a comprehensive journey map, a team will capture a user’s emotions and pain points, and the team can then identify the areas where a user struggles or experiences negative emotions when interacting with the product. This information can be used to prioritize parts of the UX and UI that can be improved to optimize the user experience.

    Let’s look at an example- say a fintech company is creating a mobile app where user’s can manage their investments. The team decides to create a user journey map after identifying that they are having problems where users do not use features on the app and overall engagement is low. Their research objectives are to find where a user is experiencing confusion or friction within the app, which is leading them to avoid using all of the features and returning to the application.

    Conduct user research / gather existing data

    Before creating the user journey map, the team should conduct user research to understand the needs, goals, behaviors, and pain points of your target audience. It’s important to note that this data is central to creating a representation that accurately represents a user’s experience, and this data should not be based on the assumptions of the design team. Conducting qualitative UX Research can bring to light issues that the design team may not have considered, and can invalidate the assumption that features are actually desirable or usable. This can be done through surveys, interviews, focus groups, or user testing. All existing user research data should be collected so that relevant information can be included.

    The fintech company decides to gather quantitative analysis showing user data on the pathways taken through the app and heatmaps that represent where user’s are clicking on the app. Before creating the user journey map, however, they conduct user interviews and user testing with the app to really gather rich insights on the experience, starting with the context in which user’s are interacting with the app.

    Define the personas

    Different user personas can have different use cases for the product, emotions when interacting, and feature prioritization within the product. It’s important to know the personas that the team is designing for and create multiple user journey maps for the different personas. The user research done in step 2 should inform the design team as to the common characteristics, use cases, user stories, and use contexts necessary to define personas. These aren’t cut and dry categories that all users will fit neatly into, but they do help the design team try to design  solutions for a diverse audience with unique user needs.

    The fintech company defines three personas based on their user research. These personas include information about a user’s motivations and goals for using the fintech app, their context of use, such as how often they interact and other lifestyle factors that may affect their product use, and the common pain points that the product is solving for the user.

    Map out the interactions with the product and the emotional journey behind them

    Here’s where the team creates the user journey map. At this point, the team has the necessary information to visualize the user experience, broken down by persona level. A user journey map can be iterated upon, so the first iteration may be created with sticky notes or a whiteboard in a collaborative team session. Later, it may be finalized in a tool such as Miro, Mural, Figjam, or a number of other tools.

    Here’s an example of what a user journey map can look like from Nielson Norman Group


    There are many ways that a team can put the design of the map together, but what’s important is that it provides context on who the user is, what their goals are in interacting with the product or service, the experiences that occur outside of the interaction with the product that make up the motivations, emotions, and thought processes behind their actions with the product. This article is an excellent resource for the different types of customer journey maps, templates, and different ways to visualize the experience.

    The fintech app company may visualize details of the user’s interaction within the application, but for the final customer journey map they also zoom out and show the process that a customer goes through when deciding they need to manage their investments, deciding which product to use, and the process that they go through to vet the application, and then their thought process as they onboard.


    Identify the opportunities for improvement

    After creating the user journey map, the team should take a step back and identify opportunities for improvement. This can be areas where a user’s initial goals are not being met. Parts of the process of vetting or choosing a product are overwhelming. Moments when onboarding and learning a new product that cause friction.  The areas for improvement will present themselves as an opportunity to create more enjoyable experiences for the user and opportunities to streamline the user’s journey.

    For the fintech app, they might identify that customer’s main concerns and underlying emotions when interacting with the product are unease and they place a high value on using a product that they can trust. Therefore, they identify that there’s an opportunity to improve the customer experience by increasing their feelings of trust when interacting with the product.


    Use the journey map to impact product design decisions

    After all this work of creating a user journey map, it’s important that the design team keeps it in front of them as they work through product design decisions. Far too many UX Research deliverables end up stowed away, never used again by the design team and forgotten as the team gets excited about the UI design. The user journey map should be used to influence feature priority, new product features, UX Writing, user flow design, and even placement of buttons and other UI patterns.

    The fintech company may decide that they need to include UI elements and UX Writing  that communicate the status of the application after any important action is taken. This will address gaps in the user experience where they are experiencing confusion or hesitation.



             By following these steps, your team can create a comprehensive and actionable user journey map that will help you improve the user experience of your product and drive business success.  We’ve discussed a few reasons why to create a user journey map and how it can improve your product, but how does it actually impact the business? A user journey map can lead to more than understanding pain points. You can get granular with your analysis of a user journey map to improve more specific business goals such as improving conversion rates. Mapping out the experience can make it more clear where drop offs are occurring, and where customers are abandoning the product, and more importantly why. By improving the design, UX Designers can have a real impact on the revenue of the business. 

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