Understanding users’ journey to improve their experience

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by Alan Colligan
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For several years now, strategic planning comes hand to hand with experience design for most companies. Many of them are doing a great job, while others… well, they are yet on the race. Acknowledging that the relationship between your organisation and its users moves far beyond the point of sale is the first step. Let me push this notion through:  
Infinite things happen throughout the users’ journey from the rise of a need to the purchase and understanding key milestones throughout that journey can help us improve their experience and create more reliable and more active engagement.

All You Need To Know About Customer Journey Mapping

From the aforesaid, we can infer that there are as many different journeys as there are types of users or personas. And you are right, it can be challenging for your company to delve into the minds of your customers. However, no matter how many different users you connect with, the key is to identify and address one type of client or sub-group at a time. This will direct you to create a separate set of milestones that match the profile at each stage of the user’s journey. Everything starts with research; why? Because we don’t know what we don’t know. Once we’ve investigated and identified the main stages of our user’s journey, it is time to synthesise the information we have gathered; and to start mapping that experience. Journey Maps are visual tools commonly used by user experience (UX) designers. And roughly speaking, it is a representation of the process that a person goes through to accomplish a goal.

As designers we love visual tools because they assist better when trying to explain intertwined and complex concepts. As you can imagine, they come in all shapes, sizes, and formats depending on the situation and the representation needs. Today I aim to uncover some of the most common elements, and how we can use journey maps.

Customer Journey Mapping

What makes a Journey Map a mighty tool?

A journey map is a representation of the relationship between a user and product (or service) in a specific time frame. There are three relevant aspects to be represented: people, stages, and situations. In that representation, we may be able to find:


A persona is a fictional, yet realistic, description of a typical target user. This means that our tool will be built under this actor’s point of view. This is probably the right time to say that a journey map is not an Experience Map or a Service Blueprint. A journey map has a specific actor and specific scenario.

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Customer Journey Mapping

Here is where we will assess the circumstances associated with our actor’s goal or need, and specific expectations. Situations might be envisioned if we are working on future strategy. To be explicit, we will break these situations into concatenated sequences of separated events.

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Milestones & Phases

From an end to end perspective, we will structure the map by establishing different high-level stages. Depending on the situation, milestones will vary; for example, the process for doing weekly groceries will differ from buying a house or a Tesla. Roughly speaking, the usual phases are awareness, consideration, purchase, and experience.

Awareness is the earliest stage of the journey. Firstly, a want or a need raises and compels people to go looking for a way to address it. Whatever the trigger or the circumstance is, this person has an outcome in mind and is now seeking a product or service to fulfil it.

Consequently, the user will get into a consideration phase. This is a middle stage and can be subdivided or take different pathways, depending on the level of consideration required and the urgency of the customer. It may involve comparisons between products or services.

Finally, purchase and experience. In these last two phases of the user’s journey, the decision will be made, and the product will be assessed fondly. Our focus now is to understand key behaviours, thoughts, and feelings.

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Behaviours, thoughts, and feelings

These are behaviours, thoughts, and feelings our actor will experience throughout the journey and they should be mapped within every phase.

Do: These are the actual behaviour and steps taken by users. It’s also important to document workarounds and ways the users get to achieve their goals.

Think: Ideally, these are customer verbatims from research. Quotes and expressions that represent the user’s mindset.

Feel: Pain-points and bliss-points of the experience. This will show us the different shades of impressions the actor goes through, from being delighted to absolutely frustrated.

Possible Improvements

Time to turn data into strategy. In this stage we aim to answer What, Who, Where, How, and When. Design thinking consists of applying creative and analytical thinking that results in innovation.

In terms of success, we can expect that a journey map will uncover growth opportunities and improvement possibilities. We can then, tweak and strengthen those vulnerable points, turning the pain-points into bliss-point. Growth metrics can then be incorporated into the organisational culture of your company to create vast efficiencies.

Summarising, mapping an experience is a diagnosis process that gives us the ability to create a positive impact on clients to sustain the relationship and remain relevant before, during, and after the sales point. The nature of our time is that technology is ever-changing, meaning we must too evolve. The best way to do that is to reveal inefficiencies within your company and solve these problems to contribute to long term success. This does not mean the end, but merely the beginning of something more meaningful.

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Alan Colligan

Alan Colligan

Alan has been involved in the advertising industry for over 5 years. In his previous life he has been (and in some cases still is) passionate about all things fermentation, making music and spending time in the garden tending to his chickens, greenhouse and tackling home renovations. In his professional life he is invested in creating long lasting partnerships with New Zealand business to foster growth in the digital landscape.