Mapping the User Journey – A Step By Step Guide

In this guide, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to create intuitive user journey maps that allow you to monitor the way individuals interact with your organisation. Being able to accurately map the user journey ensures that you’re able to refine your service provision and identify and eradicate problems with your main channels of communication, improving the customer experience in the process.

  1. Be goal-orientated – ask WHY why you’re making a user journey map

Before you begin mapping out the user journey, you first need to ask why you’re making a map and what you want your map to achieve. This is an essential part of the process because it allows you to set specific goals and establishes the limits of your investigation. Without such limits, you’ll likely find your map is sprawling, unfocused and short on genuine insight.

Mapping the User Journey - A Step By Step Guide

Organisations can create a user journey map for a variety of reasons. You may want to consider the following factors.

  • Are there any specific events or instances that acted as catalysts for the creation of your map?
  • How is the map going to be used by your team going forward?
  • What specific kind of user are you mapping for?
  • Do you already have a good understanding of who your users are?

  1. Determine your scale and scope for more accurate mapping

Once you’ve asked yourself the important questions regarding your reasons for creating the map, it’s time to begin building it. Like any good cartographer, you’ll start by thinking about scale. One of the strengths of user journey maps is that they can be designed to look at the general end-to-end user journey or more specific, singular actions, such as a chatbot interaction or the payment process.

When deciding on your scope and scale, remember to refer to your answers in step one.

  • If a particular event motivated the creation of your map, would it make more sense to look at the specific processes involved in that event?
  • Will the map be used by all employees or by a specific team? If a small team are the only ones who will use the map, is it better to zero in on processes that are relevant to them? Or would it help to provide them with a wider, all-round context?
  • Does the size of your organisation play a role in how accurately you can map the user journey? Extremely large organisations may find that an end-to-end map is impossible because there are simply too many touchpoints to factor in.

  1. Build a user persona that accurately represents your users

The vast majority of user journey maps utilise a user persona. A user persona is a fictional representation of a certain type of customer and it’s useful because of the way it allows us to imagine the ways in which individuals interact with an organisation. Without a user persona, it’s difficult to incorporate the emotional factors that typically drive human action into our map.

Start by making a single user persona. You can achieve this by:

Mapping the User Journey - A Step By Step Guide
  • Performing research into what your customers are like. This could mean conducting interviews and questionnaires and analysing the findings.
  • While all customers will be slightly different, you’ll discover common factors that allow us to build an imagined ‘perfect’ user.
  • First, look for demographic information. This will include information, such as age, gender, profession, salary, location, and what devices they’re most likely to access your services through.
  • Search for patterns and trends that allow you to build a ‘stereotyped’ customer that represents a specific section of your demographic.

  1. Develop a portfolio of personas to avoid tunnel vision

Though you may find that a single user persona is enough to get you started, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to develop a wider range of ‘characters’ in order to represent the various types of users who interact with your organisation. This ensures that you don’t narrow your focus to one type of user at the expense of others.

When developing your personas, it’s important to remember that:

  • Each map should be built around a single user persona. If you try and integrate more than one persona in a single map, you’ll struggle to maintain focus.
  • Personas should be substantially different from one another.
  • Everything should be based on concrete evidence and research. Most organisations will have collected a considerable amount of their users’ customer data already – this should be your first port of call when researching your users.
  • It’s best to focus on individuals who have already interacted with your organisation or intend to do so in the future. You don’t want non-customers tainting your research with their answers.

  1. Provide essential context for your personas

At this stage, you should have at outline of at least one user persona, maybe more, that is sketched out in through demographic detail. While that’s a good start, it won’t provide you with the complexity you need to compile an accurate map. For that, we need a little context and emotional depth.

Mapping the User Journey - A Step By Step Guide
  • Consider what your personas’ goals are. What has driven them to interact with your organisation?
  • Imagine a scenario in which they interact with your business. What events preceded the interaction?
  • What expectations do your user personas have of your organisation and its service?
  • What mindset is the user in when they interact with your organisation? Are they tired at the end of a long day? Are they excited about a purchase? How will this affect the interaction?

  1. Detail the touchpoints you would like and expect users to hit

Though not essential, it’s typically a good idea to construct an ‘ideal’ user journey map based on the actions you would expect your personas to take when engaging with your business. Once complete, you can compare it against your data-based mapping. This is useful due to the way it highlights where your expectations and reality diverge.

  • Think about how you expect your users to first contact your organisation. Are they more likely to visit your website or pass through the IVR system?
  • Ask yourself how you think users move between touchpoints.
  • Consider why they take certain actions. What causes them to close your chatbot and pick up the phone to try and reach a customer service agent? Why do they go from your website to sending an email, rather than engaging with your chatbot service?

  1. List your persona’s touchpoints to see how they interact with your organisation

Having created a user map based solely on how you would hope or expect a user to interact with your organisation, it’s time to examine the reality. Your user journey map must be based on data generated by those individuals engaging with your organisations. If you’re not already collecting this information, now is the time to start.

Your data should tell you:

Mapping the User Journey - A Step By Step Guide
  • How users first engage your organisation.
  • Each and every interaction (the touchpoints) the user has with your organisation.
  • How they move between channels – this will provide important information that could inform changes to your channel shift strategy.
  • How the journey came to an end.
  • Notable details that may help determine why they acted in a certain way. For instance, if you discover that the final touchpoint with a dissatisfied user was a call with a particularly long wait time, you should make a note of the fact. It might help you establish motivation later.

  1. Examine the four key features of every touchpoint for a rounded perspective

To ensure that you’re mapping the user journey in as complete a manner as possible, it’s a good idea to look at the following four key features of every journey.

  1. Channel – what channel does the interaction take place in? How are users moving between channels and why?
  2. Purpose – what are users trying to achieve by engaging with your organisation in the way they do?
  3. Steps taken – what specific actions do users take within each channel? If they access your website, are they browsing, looking for contact information or making a purchase?
  4. Pain points – what obstacles are there to the user completing their interaction in a satisfactory manner?

  1. Consider user intention for more detailed insight

At every stage of the mapping process, you must consider user intention. A map that focuses only on where and how users engaged your organisation will not provide you with sufficient insight. You also need to consider the ‘why.’ A map without the ‘why’ will be of no help improving your services in the future. If you don’t know why a user closed the chatbot session without having completed the interaction, you won’t know what went wrong and what steps you can take to improve chatbot performance.

Mapping the User Journey - A Step By Step Guide

  1. Begin sketching out the user narrative to see the entire journey

Now that you have a list of touchpoints, you can move on and begin visually mapping the user journey. At first, you should focus on simply sketching the steps involved in the journey.

  • Bring together all the information you’ve acquired about each touchpoint and create a step-by-step guide to each journey.
  • A good way of doing this is by creating a basic flowchart or using post-it notes to explain the process. You can find several free templates here.
  • Don’t forget to explore the way in which users transition between interactions, too.

  1. Use tools to improve your depth of understanding

While the sketch you’ve created will help you better understand the user journey, it’s not yet complete. Rather than resting on your laurels, you need to consider ways that you can present the user journey map so that other individuals and teams can benefit from it. While a drawing a complex flowchart on the office whiteboard may help you understand what users are going through, it’s not likely to be of much help to anyone else.

Fortunately, there is a range of tools at your disposal to help you present your map in a more intuitive and easy-to-interpret manner.

Storyboard – a storyboard brings each step of the user journey to life, helping you turn an abstract exercise in business management into something that people can relate to.  Here’s a great example from via Chelsea Hostetter at the Austin Center for Design.

Mapping the User Journey - A Step By Step Guide

Infographics – combine all of the information you’ve acquired into a handy infographic. This allows you to present a digestible overview of the user journey to any employee who requires it. We like this simple example from

Mapping the User Journey - A Step By Step Guide

Timelines – some user journey maps integrate the information you’ve acquired into a ‘day in the life’ timeline that details your persona’s daily activities outside of their interactions with your organisation, too. For example this Ecommerce customer journey map via Kartern Design Mapping the User Journey - A Step By Step Guide

  1. Compare your expectations against the research-based reality

Now, you should have two user journey maps. One that shows how you expected your persona to interact with your organisation and one that details how they actually did so. Comparing the two allows you to see whether there are any major differences between what you want and expect the user journey to be and how it actually manifests itself.

Mapping the User Journey - A Step By Step Guide
  • Look out for any major divergences. Are there any instances in which your persona behaves in a completely unexpected way? Is there any reason for them doing so?
  • When you start mapping user journeys for a variety of personas, look for patterns. Do users regularly make a surprising decision in the same channel or at the same moment?
  • For instance, are users engaging via email sooner than you would expect? Are fewer users engaging with your chatbot than you predicted? Are a lot of callers ‘zeroing out’ of your IVR system and speaking to a human agent rather than using it to self-serve?

  1. Test your hypothesis to ensure accuracy

So, you’ve created your user journey map and think that you’ve got a pretty good understanding of how users interact with your organisation. However, there’s one more major step in the mapping process. As with any experiment, you need to test and validate your hypothesis. Otherwise, you may make changes to your business strategy and communications technology based on invalid and unproven assumptions.

  • Compare your user journey map to the data you have at your disposal. Does it match up? Have you subconsciously altered the journey to meet your expectations, rather than basing it on hard data?
  • Go through the user journey yourself. Approach your organisation from the same perspective as your persona and ask yourself whether your map makes sense.
  • Continue to gather customer information and feedback, update your findings and improve your map regularly.

What Next?

In this step-by-step guide, we’ve given you the tools and information required to accurately map out the user journey. This is a process that can help you identify problems in your main communication channels, remove obstacles to satisfactory user experience and improve service provision.

Have a question or want further information on mapping the customer journey? Our expert team have been providing customer contact solutions for over 25 years. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line.