Optimization glossary

User journey map

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What is a user journey map?

A user journey map is a diagram that visually illustrates the user flow through your application, software, or website. Every user journey map starts with an entry point(s) — initial contact or discovery — and continues through the process of engagement into long-term customer loyalty and advocacy.

When complete, the user journey map identifies all key customer touchpoints in your current state and describes in detail the customer’s goals, motivations, and feelings at each step.

A user journey map is different from a user flow or a customer journey map.

User flows User journey map Customer journey map
  • Feature complex pathways across a task
  • Include an entry and exit point to a task
  • Accounts for user choice via branches, decisions, and options
  • Expands on user flows
  • Focuses on user needs and usability by persona and use case
  • Maps features and functionality based on problem and solutions
  • Articulates the emotional experience of using the product
  • Identifies areas to surprise and delight your users and customers

User journey map example

What does a user journey map look like? How long does a user journey map have to be?

Every map is unique to your customer personas, their pain points, and the functionality and number of touchpoints currently built into your product.

This example is a general overview of the typical user journey that can serve as a starting point for understanding how users interact with a site, so that different steps of the journey can be improved.

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While a simple user journey map such as the one above can be useful for simple sites, a more complex analysis could require multiple maps to be created based on specific user personas or analyzing how different traffic behaves based on the source of the visitor (SEO, PPC, social media, etc.) in an analytics platform.

What’s the value of creating a user journey map?

User journey mapping is an exercise that keeps you customer-focused and increases your velocity. How could this be possible?

When product and UX teams dedicate time to this exercise, you’re gaining a valuable resource and the chance to:

  • Dig deep into customer feelings from their point of view
  • Challenge you and your team’s assumptions
  • Identify currently unmet needs and unexpected use cases
  • Dive deeper into complex journeys across products
  • Find roadblocks and blockers early to deliver better products faster; and most importantly
  • Build and deliver realistic, customer-focused product roadmaps that meet customer needs early and often

All of these make for excellent practice in product design and growth within your discipline. But they also contribute to your team becoming heroes within your organization.

How can user journey mapping help team members across your business and the business itself? The outcomes above help you all:

  • Excite potential customers
  • Build a community of enthusiastic early adopters
  • Send retention through the roof

How user journey maps develop a deeper understanding of the user experience

Isn’t a user journey map just a visualization of your product architecture or a list of user needs? Not when they’re done correctly.

A user journey map is a visual representation of the totality of the customer experience. It tells you how well you’re addressing customer pain points and meeting customer needs and where those actions are taking place.

Although the practice lives with the Product and UX teams, it is a useful tool for all your stakeholders. Whether they’re in customer success, sales, engineering, or marketing, almost everyone at your organization benefits from access to the user journey maps your teams generate. All of these teams have their own business goals related to this question: “What is the user thinking about and what are they hoping to achieve?” And your map provides an answer.

This contextual information about the user allows you to view the entire customer experience from onboarding to renewal as a path or journey that begins with having a need and ends with having that need met. It allows everyone to gain empathy for their customers beyond the specific tasks they confront.

In the end, understanding the journey stages and their feelings, motivations, and experiences at each stage is key to designing a product or a site that surprises and delights customers.

Three customer journey map templates to try

Are you staring at a blank drawing board wondering where to start? Don’t wait a second long: a journey map template will help you start building in seconds.

Most of the free templates available are technically labeled customer journey map templates, but all you need to do to use them is scale them back to what you’re covering without worrying about service delivery.

Here are a few places to find templates:

  1. Miro: You can’t go wrong with Miro’ for ease of use or professional template library, and the customer journey template is no exception.
  2. Canva: You don’t need a whole new dedicated tool to create your journey maps. We love Canva’s collection of customer journey maps because there are so many different styles of journey maps that will suit you whether you’re a customer data minimalist or a maximalist.
  3. Figma: Calling all Figma users! Build your journeys where all your other UX work product lives. Search the community for user journey map templates and you’ll run into gems like this one.

How to fill in your user journey map

Whether you’re using a journey map template or you’re huddled around the whiteboard with your sticky notes, you do need a few key pieces of information to get started.

  1. Make sure you come to the table with the relevant:
  2. Customer or user personas
  3. Functionality & user actions

User research, customer interviews, and customer feedback data

Step 1: Focus on your persona & use case

Your personas are representations of your target customer and include basic demographic data as well as details like what device they’re on and what task they want to accomplish. Eventually, you want to complete a user journey map for each of your primary buyer and user personas and use cases

Step 2: Map the touchpoints and pain points

Compile a series of user goals and actions into a timeline of steps on a path that moves in a continuous direction. This represents the experience map.

Step 3: Create the narrative

Flesh out the timeline with user thoughts and emotions for each stage based on your user research. Include actions, motivations, and emotions that occur at each interaction or touchpoint, including the emotional highs and lows, paying attention to where customers most often get stuck or frustrated.

Deliver real value from your user journey map through optimization

With a completed user journey map in hand, you can then share it with other team members and begin to brainstorm what’s needed to orchestrate the ideal customer experience.

The key to unlocking the next phases is gathering even more insight into customer’s data and behavior. This is where tools like Optimizely Feature Experimentation and Optimizely Web Experimentation come in. Experimentation can help you learn more about your customer so you can design and build with their needs in mind. Optimization generates the first-party data you need to identify areas of the site in need of improvement as well as areas where customers are accomplishing their goals.

Are you ready to dive deeper? Check out 3 tips for building loyal customers from Optimizely’s Product Strategy Director, Tina Nelson.