When working on a user’s experience, it is critical to have an understanding of what the user actually does. These steps in a user’s process is called a variety of things. Some call it a user flow or a journey map. Whichever term you use, the basic process is to show the high-level steps that user participates in when using a product or service.
As with many UX deliverables, there are a million ways to present the information and the design the product you are sharing. You can include certain components, or exclude others all based on a matter of factors including time, purpose, audience and important content that needs to be shared. Basically a journey map can be as simple or complex as you choose to design it.
For me, like with many processes in UX, I like to start with a rough layout or sketch. To create the final deliverable, I first went through the following steps:
- Conducted several rounds of observing of the user, including interviews for clarification and process.
- Sat with more than one user, to capture diversity in the process as well as consistency and differences.
- Walked through the steps with others members of my team to educate them on the process as well as to gain an understanding of the different interpretations they have of the process.
- Gathered questions from my team members so I can revisit my users and get answers to these new questions.
- Sat with (more than one) user to get clarification on the potential gaps in the process as well as get the team’s clarifying questions answered.
- Reviewed my notes and understanding to come up with a basic user flow.
- Sketched out the basic steps, in my understanding, to review with the user.
- Again, sat with the user and go over my proposed steps in the journey for feedback, correction, updates and clarification.
- Simplified all of the steps captured to present only the most important information.
- I finally took this simplified process, and designed a graphic to illustrate the steps in the user’s journey to aid the team in understanding and to build empathy.
Yes I said it: Build Empathy. That really is the most valuable outcome (in my opinion) of creating a journey map.
Sure it’s great to have a general understanding of the steps involved in a process. It’s valuable to know what happens first, second and so on. And like I presented in my journey map, it’s interesting to know the user’s emotional state as he goes through each of those steps. And finally, it’s helpful to present possible solutions at various stages in the user’s journey to make that process better.
But likes I said before, the real value of a journey map is to build empathy. A strong journey map will showcase things like:
- How many (often painful) steps a user must go through to complete a task.
- The bad parts in the process, like delays and other pain points.
- The user’s feelings as he goes through the steps, especially the bad feelings.
- The numerous extra resources the users has to touch in order to complete the job.
- The gaps in the process.
- The additions that could be (hopefully eliminated)
- The flaws in the technology and tools.
Empathy is the key to success when you want your developers and engineers to build great product with the user being a strong part of the equation — not just keeping in mind the time and technology restraints.