When you’re building a product, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision. You spend a lot of time thinking about every little feature and every single process running under the hood. But that’s not how your users interface with your product. They’re coming from the opposite direction—they have no reason to care until you show them what your product can do for them. Turning first-time users into long-term customers requires an understanding of where users are coming from and what they want to do. Creating maps of users’ journeys within your product helps you align this context and motive and get users where they want to go. By getting into the heads of your users with these journey maps, you can make granular but pivotal tweaks that help users accomplish their goals easier and faster, come back to do it again, and build habits around your product.
The user journey is a timeline of user actions that describes the relationship between your brand and its customers. It’s all of a user’s interactions, from their point of view. Mapping the user journey creates a timeline of all touchpoints between a customer and your organization, and all channels they happen in.
A map of the user journey can include the whole process from the moment a person learns about your product, through becoming a customer, to the point at which they stop using it. Or it can focus on a specific part of this flow — like the onboarding flow.
Here’s how to get started understanding your customers and their journeys.
- Start by working from your personas
Your user personas are generalized profiles that outline archetypes of your common users. They help you understand who you’re building for. This gives important context for why users take certain actions within your product, and what they’re hoping to accomplish when they use it. Begin by creating hypotheses about the different types of users in your product. Then, through a combination of product analytics, user surveys, and market research, you can validate these hypotheses. Once you have your user personas drawn out, start creating user journey maps for each of them. As a minimum, you want to have at least one map per persona to understand how each type of customer interacts with your product, and what they need to do in order to accomplish what’s meaningful to them.
- Great user journeys are based on research
User research is critical in understanding the experience of users. There are many different ways in which you can collect and systemize feedback. You’re probably already getting a lot if you have a product that’s up and running. At this stage, it is critical to learn about the motivation of users — what problem are they looking to solve when they come to your app? Different user segments will probably have different reasons to use your app, so you can start by developing hypothesis as to what drives each user to download. Your research should focus on the following aspects of the user experience:
User research is critical in understanding the experience of users. There are many different ways in which you can collect and systemize feedback. You’re probably already getting a lot if you have a product that’s up and running. At this stage, it is critical to learn about the motivation of users — what problem are they looking to solve when they come to your app? Different user segments will probably have different reasons to use your app, so you can start by developing hypothesis as to what drives each user to download.
Your research should focus on the following aspects of the user experience:
- Context: What is going on in your user’s day when they engage with your product? Are they in a rush? Worried? Planning an adventure?
- Motivation: What drives your user to interact with your product? What are they hoping to get out of it? Why are they using your product instead of a competitor’s — or nothing at all?
- Mental Models: How does your user conceive of the problem space that your product addresses? What concepts and connections come naturally to them, and what do they need to be taught?
- Pain Points: What are the challenges users are facing? Is your product helping them solve these or aggravating them? Are there any obstacles they have to using your product?
- Map out their journey
While you may eventually make a map for every persona, you can start by making a single general map of the general user journey.
The information you collect allows you to create a timeline of your user’s interactions with your brand and product. This timeline could include things like:
- User touchpoints
- Benchmark actions and accomplishments within the app
- Scheduled notifications
The user journey map should note the channels in which these interactions happen to ensure that the user is getting a consistent experience across all channels. For example, if a customer talks to a pre-sales agent, you should note if that’s expected to happen over the phone or through an online live chat. If a commuter from your weather app was going to talk to an agent, it would make most sense for them to do it within an online live chat box, since they’ll be on the go. At each step in the user’s journey, you can also note the emotional state of users (based on customer feedback and behavioral analytics). Look for the steps that confuse them and/or make them angry. This will allow you to target areas that can affect the whole experience you’re offering your customers.
No matter what type of product experience you’re building, your focus should be on creating a smooth and intuitive user journey. What seems smooth and intuitive to you, as the product designer or marketer, isn’t necessarily as smooth and intuitive to users. You work with the product every day and have a vested interest. Users just need to accomplish that one thing, and they don’t have a reason to care beyond that. But if you know what that “one thing” is for your different types of users, and you help them get there quickly, you’ll prove that your product is valuable. By making it really easy for users to accomplish this the first time, they’ll want to keep coming back to do that again and again. How your customers interact with your website or your brand isn’t a linear process – no matter how much you might like it to be. Getting people to move from point A to point B without jumping ship or missing a step in between doesn’t always happen. But, taking the time to understand as much as you can about what your users’ goals are along with how they already move through your website can go a long way towards keeping them happy.
Havice, J., 2017. A Step By Step Guide To Building Customer Journey Maps. [Online]
Available at: https://conversionxl.com/blog/customer-journey-maps/
[Accessed 27 October 2017].
Kaytes, G., n.d. A Beginners’ Guide to User Journey Mapping. [Online]
Available at: https://www.appcues.com/user-onboarding-academy/user-journey-map
[Accessed 27 October 2017].
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