How to Use (and Build) a User Journey Map for a Better Product
by Jase August 15, 2018
How to Use (and Build) a User Journey Map for a Better Product

User journey mapping is the process of identifying how customers interact with your brand and product throughout their entire user experience, including the primary touch points and significant events in a customer’s lifecycle — from their point of view.

Maybe you’re wondering why you’d need a user journey map. There are different ways a user journey map can help you make and market better products — It is an essential step in improving the UX of your customers. Here's why it's important:

- Understand the user motivations at various stages of their experience - Take a step back, and empathize with your users - Personalize the user experience depending on the acquisition channel - Ensure that the user journey is in a logical order - Finding gaps where users might run into problems - Having a voice of truth for the user’s behaviors - Understand the context of how a user is using your product

Often, product managers and product marketing managers get so caught up in the details of their work, and they get tunnel vision. A user journey map helps you take a step back and put yourself in your customer's shoes.

The more complicated your product, the more critical a user journey map is. Today, the customer lifecycle is no longer — Engage with a brand, buy a product — It’s more complex — subscriptions, multiple tiers of product, multiple marketing entry points and the various user personas who end up interacting with your brand.

Start with persona

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User journey mapping starts with selecting and defining your user personas because different user personas face various problems.

Let’s take an example of a CRM software — The Sales Exec who’s looking for a more user-friendly CRM might find your product differently than a Sales VP looking for better CRM reporting. The main problem they are trying to solve is different, and the way they’d use the product would be different, but complementary. You’d wanted to demonstrate that the CRM is easy to use for the Sales Exec, while the VP would want to see robust dashboards and reporting. When the Exec interacts with your brand, they see the user-friendly UI. While the VP would experience the robust reporting tools to help make their job easier. Ideally, if your product has more than one user persona, you need to map out the user journey for each persona.

Understand how users find your brand

- How do users discover your brand? - What problem are they looking to solve? - What’s their emotional state? - What type of work do they do? - What happens if they don’t use your solution — Is there a competitor or would there be a different solution (or no solution at all).

List out all the different ways a user can find your brand, by persona. Once that’s listed, focus on the actions they take to get to your activation metric or aha moment.

Activation metric (Aha moment)

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Facebook’s famous aha moment is '7 friends in 10 days' after which the probability that a user adopts the platform high. Every company is different, and odds are you won’t be able to define your activation metric with such precision. You can, however, determine your activation metric in a general way. It could be as simple as a user completing their profile, making a post, and then returning to the platform. What you want to do is to find a correlation between the set of early activities a user takes and continued use of the platform. It's the inflection point where someone says 'this is amazing, how did I ever get by without it!'.

Whatever your activation metric is, it’s one of the critical components of a user journey. It’s the point where users have found success with your product, have seen value, and will (hopefully) convert to a paying customer. If you’re a paying only solution, then it’s the point where the user understand how your solution positively impacts their life.


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Once a customer is engaged, and paying, you’ll want to understand how to keep them using your solution. Again, a user journey map can be helpful in understanding key drop off points and moments when they may be ready for more advanced features or may encounter frustrations. After reaching their aha moment, and becoming proficient with your platform, you can (and should) start proposing new ways to use your solution. Task management tool, Asana, does a great job of progressively exposing new features to users. You start off with basic tasks and lists and move on to collaborative projects, and timelines.

With your user journey map, you can push new behaviors at specific times in their lifecycle. Like this, you avoid overwhelming new users and show value to existing customers. Everyone knows the feeling of opening a new software for the first time and being so overwhelmed they give up before staying. A good user journey helps customers become progressively more competent with a product, without giving them too much to handle.


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If you’re selling multiple tiers of products, when does a user get a push to upgrade their plan — Some companies, like MailChimp, make it feel natural— As you send more emails, you pay more. Other companies may have a sales rep reach out to propose a higher level of plan. Timing is critical for these upsells because no one wants to feel pushed to buy. A user journey map can take a sales pitch to feel natural, or even welcomed. With a user journey map, you’re always striving to place an action within a context of your customers’ needs. Churn

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Every product has churn. Whether you're a SaaS platform, a community, or even an ecomm shop, businesses are always losing customers to either non-consumption or rival products. But reducing customer churn is something within your power. Again, the user journey map can help you understand key points in the customer lifecycle when they may churn.

Having post-purchase, customer satisfaction and exit surveys allow you to understand the reasons for churn. Pairing the qualitative data with the quantitative data will enable you to map out when users (by persona) are most likely to churn or not come back. From there you can either plan some marketing efforts or make product changes to attempt to keep users engaged. If your customers come to you cyclically, like Airbnb, then the user journey map can be used to map when they come back to your business. Perhaps a segment of clients only travels once a year during the summer, by understanding these behaviors you can tailor your marketing to speak to the client. For example, starting marketing campaigns in the spring about all the beautiful places they can go in the summer.

Use data to guide you

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A good user journey map is tested and validated through data. Understanding the critical points in the user journey can be done with tools like Amplitude, Mixpanel, and even Google Analytics. Using these tools can help you visualize how new users enter, what actions they take and where they drop off. You may want to be able to track cohorts to see at what point in the lifecycle engagement drops off, or churn increases.

The point being, if you’re not analyzing the data and just assuming what steps a user would take, then you’re user journey map won’t be complete. At best it will give you a vague idea of how customers interact with your brand, at worst it can mislead into false assumptions.

Mapping the journey (software)

Although the visual user journey map is secondary to the analysis of the user journey, it's still essential. Afterall, you won't expect your CEO to read through a large document and excel spreadsheet. There’s a bunch of tools to map a user journey which allows others in the organization to visualize and follow the path users take.

Here are some to consider: Microsoft Visio UXPressia Smaply RealtimeBoard

Any tool you use that gives you a visual flow of your customers' journey that can be shared with others is sufficient.

How to use the user journey map

First, a user journey map is a living document. As you add features, try new marketing channels, update your product, you’ll want to keep your journey map up to date.

Using the journey map can be helpful in various ways. Marketing campaigns: use the user journey map to tailor your marketing campaigns. Have different landing pages for different personas, remarketing for disengaged users, and win back for churned customers.

Product: understand when users run into frustrations, when they first see value, and how they come into your product. Along with research and validation, a user journey map can help you better contextualize how users will use and adopt new features.

When planning new features, a user journey map should be your go-to for how these features will impact KPIs. Is this a feature to keep current customers paying (or paying more), help acquire new customers, will this feature allow you to convince potential customers to switch from competitors.

Bringing it back to the customer

A user journey map is all about your customer. Regardless of your product, your user journey map lets you better understand your customers' needs, and how your product helps them solve their problems. Reference the user journey map when making significant decisions and see how, where and when these new ideas will impact your customers.

Interested in creating a user journey map for your organization? Reach out to use to get a consultant to give you an idea of how we can help you create a user journey map that fits your company and customers realities. We can help you produce real measurable results.

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