Product Management Skills: User Journey Mapping

Are you ready to up your UX skills in 2021? Of course you are! Because Product Design is even more integral to successful digital products now than ever before. Why should you start with User Journey Maps? Because they’ll help you to deepen your understanding of your users, which is the driving force behind any good Product Manager.

Have I convinced you? Great, let’s dive in!

What Is User Journey Mapping?

User Journey Map
An example User Journey Map from NNgroup.com

A user journey/customer journey map helps you and your teams to visualize your customers’ relationships with your company, brand, and/or product.

Creating a user journey map is useful for measuring the customer’s experience, something which can be a little abstract and hard to visualize. This helps everyone involved, from UX to marketing and to product, to see the product from the user point of view. This can help to pinpoint potential opportunities for improvement. When we understand the user experience from their perspective, we’re more likely to unearth pain points.

Having a centralized document that visualizes the customer journey is also very useful for getting teams aligned on what the user experience looks like. Everyone in a cross functional team will be looking at your users from a different perspective, so any opportunity to align them will help you to build a more cohesive product.

Similarly, it’s another opportunity to collaborate, and for each discipline to combine their unique perspectives. Marketing is going to have one point of view when it comes to user interactions, and customer support is going to have that in-the-trenches knowledge. It’s an opportunity to get a 360 view of the customer experience.

They can be purely text-based, but if you’re sharing your journey maps with stakeholders, it’s recommended that you make them as visual as possible. After all a journey map is a visualization, which is hard to make without…visuals. Miro is great for this, and even comes with journey map templates.

The Difference: User Flows vs User Journeys

User Flow Diagram
An example User Flow from Lucidchart

Newbies to UX design can be forgiven for confusing user flows with user journeys, as they have similar functions, but different focuses.

As you now know, a user journey depicts and predicts the relationship a user has with the whole 360 experience of your product. However a user flow deals with how users interact with the product itself. What they tap or click on, where they scroll to, and what the logic of the interface looks like.

You can think about it this way: a user journey would be like a guidebook of Paris, with beautiful photos and descriptions of how it feels to walk along the Seine at night. But a user flow is a map of the metro, showing you how people get from Point A to Point B.

Want a more in-depth breakdown? Check out our guide: The Difference: User Flows vs User Journeys

What Do User Journey Maps Include?

User journey maps can be composed of a number of things, for example…

Empathy maps look into what a customer thinks, see, feels, and intuits in a certain situation.

Storyboards are a highly visual element that help to humanize the user, and more firmly place teams into their shoes.

Emotions and pain points help to identify the problem your product is solving, which is the first step in figuring out how to properly solve it!

User personas humanize your customers, helping your teams to be more user-centric.

Touch points are all the different ways in which you can interact with your users, whether that’s in-app decisions that they make or the conversations you have with them in your marketing.

Are Product Managers Involved in Journey Mapping?

In a word: yes! 

Journey mapping, for Product Managers, is an essential activity which helps development teams to be more user-centric. Product Managers are the keepers of user knowledge within a company, and are experts at navigating cross functional teams and bringing everyone together to collaborate on the same goal.

Product Managers are also the go-to person for stakeholders, who may be involved in the creation of journey maps and will certainly be involved in sharing them.

All together, that places the journey map responsibility firmly at the Product Manager’s feet.

The User Journey Mapping Process

Now you know what journey maps are, the benefits of having them, and that it’s your responsibility to give your valuable PM input, I bet you’re ready to make one! But how do you go about that?

To keep it simple, we can break it down into a 5-step process.

Step 1: Laying the groundwork

Before you start gathering your data and creating your beautiful graphs, you need to lay out the groundwork. First you need to gather the team who will be working on the journey maps with you. In a small company this might be just you and your senior UX designers, and maybe a marketing manager. In a larger organization, where journey maps have more scope, you’ll probably need more contributors.

Speaking of scope, you also need to figure out what’s going to be included in your journey maps. A user journey map can depict every single touch point that a user has with a product across multiple channels, or it can focus on the journey of a single action, such as upgrading a subscription or cancelling a membership. Getting everyone onboard with the goal and the scope of the map is essential to building the right map in the most efficient way.

Step 2: Gather/create your user personas

If you’re at the point of building journey maps, you probably already have your user personas. If not, there’s no better time to start than today!

User personas tell the story of who your customers are, what problems they have, and how your product fits into their lives.

We’ve got a whole guide to user personas plus a free template right here.

User Persona example

Step 3: Identify the user phases

These are the potential or common actions that a user will take, depending on their motivations and the scope of your journey map.

For example, if you’re trying to identify the user experience of someone who wants to upgrade their account, what is the user flow of that process? What information do they seek out before they make that decision? Who do they talk to? What conversations are they having with customer service teams? Do they check out content on social media?

For new products or recently launched startups, creating a customer journey map is helpful for working out how to reach potential customers. If you’re seeing a high drop out rate early on in the journey, having a map might help you to understand where the problem lies. There might be a phase missing, or the users might be getting lost in the onboarding process.

Step 4: Hypothesize and gather quantitative data

Once you have identified your user phases, you can begin hypothesizing what the user journeys will look like, depending on the user persona. Figure out what you expect these journeys to look like, then gather your quantitative data.

Even though you know how everything should work, and the journeys that users should be taking, how a customer interacts with your product or service is entirely down to them! Thorough enough user research can help you to come up with an educated guess, but be sure to verify your predicted journeys with quantitative data.

Step 5: Consolidate your findings and gather your qualitative data

Once you have a data-driven journey map, and evidence of the user flows your customers are following, it’s time to add in that all-important qualitative data. This is what’s going to add flavour and personality to your journey maps.

After all, if this is the ‘guidebook’ to your product, you’ll need things like user reviews, social media comments, and transcripts of conversations with customer support. Bring in your colorful and personality-filled user personas which humanize your users.

How to Learn More About UX Design As a Product Manager

happy go away GIF by Laurie Rowan

User Journey Mapping is a multidisciplinary activity which includes a whole bunch of teams and individual contributors. While it often falls into the Product Manager’s wheelhouse, it’s more often associated with UX design.

If you’ve been looking to boost your UX design skills, we have a whole host of PMs with design backgrounds in our Slack community.

We also have an excellent selection of talks from product professionals on our YouTube channel.

Try these out for size…

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