When you create a website for your business, you want it to do more than just inform prospective customers. While your website should educate, it should also actively help visitors achieve their goals.
Your customer will visit your website with unique intentions, and you must consider how they’ll experience your site. To shape your site to create the best outcome for both you and visitors, user journey maps can tremendously benefit the design process.
In the following guide, we’ll look at what a user journey map is and the benefits of using them for your website design—plus we’ll detail the steps you need to create one.
What is a user journey map?
A user journey map, also referred to as a customer journey map, is a diagram that depicts a user’s interactions with a product over time. Typically represented by a flow chart, user journey maps are a common UX design research and planning tool.
Anyone designing a website can create journey maps to improve their site’s user experience. Typically, UX designers complete the research and planning involved in user journey mapping before they design a website for the following reasons:
It’s a strategic exercise: User journey mapping gets you thinking about who your visitors are, their goals and what they want and need from your site to accomplish them.
Helps visualize the user flow: By visualizing your visitors’ steps throughout the site, you’ll understand their thought process as they work to achieve their goal.
What are the benefits of creating a user journey map?
Designing a website with user journey mapping is a user-centered method that will help you empathize more with the user when designing your site’s content and information architecture. Because user journey mapping allows you to anticipate visitors’ behaviors, your design will result in a more positive user experience.
User journey maps will also help you with:
More confident decision-making
Journey mapping allows you to remove inefficiencies and mitigate risks as you visualize your customers’ experience.
Business owners can use user journey maps to influence visitors to click on CTAs and increase site conversions. It can also help them build an intuitive website structure that people feel comfortable navigating.
How to create a user journey map
With user journey mapping, you should understand who your visitors are, why they’re on your site, and what’s going to help them achieve their goals. The steps below will enable you to create a user journey map that anticipates your visitors’ needs and how they browse it:
01. Get an app to help you map out your user’s journey
While you could use a spreadsheet or a flow chart maker to create a user journey map, it’ll take more time than using a UX tool built specifically for user journey mapping.
Use these tools to add and remove fields to your map, rearrange the steps and edit its visual appearance. Many times, you’ll have the option of starting from scratch or using a pre-made user journey template that suits your needs.
02. Figure out who your ideal users are
When starting a business, you usually have a general idea of your target audience. User journey mapping goes further to discover your niche. Typically, you’ll find your ideal segment of users at the intersection of what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, and where there’s a growing demand for what you do.
Go ahead and fill in the blanks:
What sits at the intersection between all three? That’s your ideal customer.
03. Create user personas
Once you’ve identified your ideal user, research them to better know who they are. Use your insights to create user personas that realistically communicate the people most likely to visit your site.
User personas are fictional users who represent the needs, personality and goals of a larger archetypal user group. In addition to adding a “real” name and photo to user persona profiles, you’ll fill in details related to:
Professional or personal details
Quotes that describe what they think or how they feel
Many brands have numerous user personas. Create profiles for each of your target personas. When you’re done, choose one to start with and include them in your user journey map.
If your brand is new or yet to launch, you might not have much existing data to pull from. You can use tools to learn about your ideal user, even if they’re not your current user:
User interviews: Round up interviewees who represent potential users, and ask them questions related to your brand. Keep in mind that this information needs to help you learn more about your average or potential user, as well as what kind of online experience will encourage them to sign up.
What do you do for a living?
Why did you start your business?
Have you ever considered using a service like ours? Why?
What would convince you to work with our services? Rank your top 3 reasons.
Social media listening: Social media is a powerful tool when creating user personas, since it helps you know potential users more personally. By gathering data on what your target users talk about, you’ll understand what motivates them to engage with other brands and can apply that to your site as well.
04. Define the scope of the user journey map
The more granular your user journey maps, the more precise your web design. You can (and should) create user journey maps for the different interactions customers have with your brand and your website.
When mapping out the user journey for new visitors, focus on what their first site experience should look like as they discover more about your product. Once you have an initial interaction with a target user, build on it. With returnees, for example, think more about what long-term loyal customers want when they enter the site, such as checking out new products or rewards programs.
Break down the scope of each interaction with the following details:
User: This is a segment of our user persona. For example, “it’s a lead we targeted on Facebook.”
Goal: What is the user’s goal during this particular visit? If the user found an ad advertising a discounted course, for example, their goal is to find out more about it.
User Flow: Provide a basic summary of how you expect this interaction to go. For example, you anticipate that a user who landed on your site through a Facebook ad will want to first read more details and then purchase your product.
What follows in the user journey map will help you figure out what’s needed on your website to increase the likelihood that they will complete their purchase at the end of the visit.
05. List the key phases and touch points
By defining certain phases of the user journey, you’ll start visualizing in detail how users get to your site, why they arrived and how they’ll interact with it. Each phase outlined in your map should include the various touch points where these interactions happen.
You can also think of these phases as your goals for their visit.
Discovery: Visitors find your brand and site through a targeted Facebook ad.
Video: Visitors are brought to a landing page of your site featuring a video that introduces your brand.
Learn: Visitors read more information about what you do and what they’re going to get from your offering.
Purchase: Visitors pay for your services with a simple two-step checkout process.
Email phase: Visitors receive a “thank you” email with relevant details to get started and stay in touch.
As you fill in this part of the user journey map, consider the following questions:
What is the source of this website traffic? In other words, what lured in these users? You can optimize these off-site touch points to increase not only your quantity of traffic, but the quality of it, too.
What is the first page they’ll see on your site? For this particular user journey, does it make sense for them to enter through the home page? Or is it better to take them to a dedicated landing page where they can focus on a specific product or service?
Where should they end their journey? When considering the best (and most realistic) ending point for visitors, think about both their needs and your own goals. For example, after visitors learn about your brand, you probably want to take them straight to a purchase page with the goal of converting. However, what if a visitor isn’t ready to purchase? You can still hold on to that lead by leading them to sign up for your weekly newsletter.
06. Think about user goals and actions at each phase
Now that you’ve mapped the various phases, write out the user's specific goals for arriving at this touchpoint and what actions they’ll take to achieve it. Objective-setting will help you understand what drives your users forward and anticipate what most visitors want to happen when they get to each stage.
Discovery: If I click this ad, I’ll see if this offer is as legitimate as it seems.
Video: If I watch this video, I’ll get a high-level overview of this course.
Learn: If I read through this page, the coach will address any doubts I have about this course.
Purchase: If I click this “Buy Now” button, I’ll be directed to checkout.
Email: If I open up my email, I can get started on the course right away.
07. Make an empathy map for the user journey
A user’s emotions heavily influence their journey. If your website doesn’t elicit the right kind of emotional reaction—be it relief, joy, excitement, or something else—visitors might not end up where you want them to.
A user journey map should reflect potential shifts in the user’s mood, behavior and thought process as they continue through each phase. This information allows you to determine the best way to use or influence that emotional state to help them accomplish their goals.
An “Overall Sentiment” section can depict your user’s mood. You can describe these using text or visuals, including emojis and colors and descriptions to show how their feelings transform over the course of their journey. Additionally, a “Think & Feel” section is where you can write out quotes that represent how your users feel during each phase.
To complete this part of the map, go back to the research you did earlier. Through user interviews and social listening, you should have some helpful soundbytes. Familiarize yourself with your users’ language so you can craft feelings that sound just like them.
08. Anticipate problems along the journey
No website is flawless. Even leading brands that have been online for decades must consistently work on refining the user experience. Knowing this, add a “problems” section to your user journey map.
This section helps you anticipate where your users may encounter friction, so you can solve these issues in the future. In some cases, it could relate to your web design. For instance, a lengthy checkout form might lead users to abandon your site. In other cases, the problem could be something larger—like a lack of brand reputation.
Writing the problems that may keep users from moving to the next step, will help you critically consider and solve how to design your website around them.
09. Think about opportunities for optimization
The “Opportunities” part of a user journey map is where you’ll hypothesize ways to optimize the user experience. Treat this section like a brain dump for all the things you can do to improve the user journey.
Once you’ve got a list of ideas, you can look around for case studies and research to back up your hypotheses. Tap into what’s worked for others and load up your “Opportunities” section with data-backed ideas to improve your own users’ journey.
10. Collect data, review and revamp your journey maps
Your initial research helped you get to know your users and how you can optimize your site for them. However, your live website’s data unlocks the next phase in designing the ideal journey.
Once your site goes live, start monitoring traffic to measure your initial user journey mapping’s effectiveness. Identify the following data:
The most visited landing pages on your website
Which pages users most commonly visit next
How the subsequent flow throughout the website looks
Which areas of the site experience the greatest loss of users
You can use website analytics or visualization tools to watch your user journeys play out in real time and historically, plus see what happens when different users enter your website.
One last thing you can do at this stage is get feedback from actual users. By conducting user interviews, adding a feedback form to your site or running online surveys, you can gain real input about your site experience
Once you’ve identified the problems along your designed user journey, return to your map and update it accordingly. This real user data can help highlight new opportunities and revamp your user journey, making solid, data-backed redesign decisions for your site far into the future.