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Dan Iaboni

Dan Iaboni

Ph.D - Chief Experience Officer

Why Journey Mapping is Critical, And Where To Start

I’m no cartophile, but I love maps.

Part of my graduate studies was spent exploring the history of maps, how they are created and how they are used. That’s why it’s exciting to see a recent spike in interest around creating journey maps.

There is one problem: What information does an journey map need to communicate?

A map is a general term applied to a tool that shows relationships between space, objects, or themes. Want to understand the shape and features of the land? Use a topographical map. Want to understand what part of the brain is associated with language? Use 3D magnetic resonance imaging.

If you want to map the user experience you will need to be more specific.

Experiences can be momentary or span years. If it’s not clear how the journey map will be used, this will lead to research that results in a useless tool.

What Exactly Are We Mapping?

The first step in planning for an journey map is to determine the scale of the experience you need to understand.  There are four levels that can be mapped out which are listed based on an increasing scale: Tasks, scenarios, journeys, and lifecycles.

The smallest scale you might map is the task or activity.

For example, when using a word processor, you can map out the sequence of steps, physical and cognitive, necessary to perform a spell check like scanning the interface to find the menu, operating the mouse to open the menu, visually searching for the spell check, and then operating the mouse to select the function.

The common name for creating a task map is a task analysis.  A task analysis provides the detail necessary to identify opportunities for efficiencies; however, mapping the details of every task is time-consuming.

The next step up from tasks are scenarios.

A scenario represents the combination of tasks that may occur to achieve a desired goal, depending on a context.

Rather than focusing on using spell check, you will map out the combination of tasks a user may go through when reviewing or editing a document.  For example, one scenario is correcting typos while writing the document; another scenario is correcting typos after writing the document.

Similar to tasks, mapping all the scenarios due to variations in user context can be time consuming.  You will want to focus on the most common scenarios, as well as the extremes, e.g. “What does the user do if they accidently delete everything while reviewing a document?”

The journey scale represents a longer period of time than tasks or scenarios.

Rather than communicating what the user is doing when reviewing a document, a journey map will represent the entire document lifecycle, from the decision to create the document, to writing, editing, adding charts and pictures, publishing, etc.

Finally, the lifecycle map represents the user’s experience over multiple journeys.

Starting from when the user first started using the word processor, to when the user becomes an expert, or how the word processor tool fits into the larger picture of information creation and management.

How to Choose the Correct Map Scale?

Task and Scenario maps are useful for identifying efficiencies in user performance, or to identify potential usability pitfalls. At this scale, the maps are helpful in making design decisions regarding the interface.

Journey and Lifecycle maps are more useful for identifying the pain points from a holistic perspective.  Rather than looking at the software or tool in isolation, journey and lifecycle maps show how the tool fits into the larger goals and motivations of the user. You would create journey and lifecycle maps when trying to create a seamless experience between multiple devices, contexts and activities.

Who is Being Mapped?

In addition to deciding what is being mapped, you will need to identity the individual who is being mapped.

You probably have different customer and user groups who perform a task, scenario, journey or lifecycle very differently. Your map needs to be clear about the differences between these groups.

Prior to starting the journey map, you need to know your customer and user personas. If you don’t have personas, the good news is that while you are conducting research for the journey map, you can be capturing the necessary information to generate your personas.

In summary, before you start planning how you are going to capture the data for creating your journey map, you need to decide on the type of map you are creating (scenario, journey or lifecycle), and whose experience you are mapping.

For more information about journey mapping, please leave us a comment below…

Dan Iaboni

Dan Iaboni

Ph.D - Chief Experience Officer

Dan firmly believes that technology must be created with the user in mind. Never shy to critique a bad design, Dan uses the Akendi blog to shine a spotlight on usability mistakes…and their solutions. Leveraging his background in engineering, computer science, psychology, and anthropology, Dan offers a unique perspective on the latest UX trends and techniques.


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Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.