Users are the key to any service. It is users who purchase products, interact with brands and return to use the service again. By considering how users interact with and experience a journey, we can identify gaps in our services and find opportunities to add value to a user’s experience.

User journey maps are a fast and interactive way to get teams on-board and understanding how users see a process. They are not feature or provider-specific, and so allow for “big picture” thinking to find gaps in the market rather than finding the same points you already know you want to address.

So what are they exactly, and how can you run a workshop to create one?

User journey workshop

What is a user journey map?

A user journey map can be defined as “a way to map out a sequence of experiences that occur to someone through time.” These experiences include external influences such as friends and family as well as salespeople and the media. The user is not constrained to only the browser, and so we have to consider that when assessing a service and how a user experiences it.

User journey maps allow us to see what is likely to happen to a user. From the smallest elements such as browsing a category to larger elements like completing payment, these maps mean we don’t forget the smaller parts of a journey that can actually have a large impact.

Included in the map are the key markers in the process we are exploring. The length of the process covered is flexible to what you need. It could be over a short timeframe such as the process for initial onboarding to a new service, or a longer timeframe such as the complete purchase cycle from browsing through to delivery. Consider the steps included are like big checkpoints through the journey such as choosing a product or placing an order, rather than granular elements such as clicking a CTA or submitting a form.

Preparing for a user journey workshop

Resources required

To start preparing for a user journey workshop you need a few resources:

  • Personas or empathy maps
  • Brown butcher paper
  • Masking tape
  • Post-Its
  • Marker pens

The resources required are easy to source and are portable, making them ideal to take to another office or to move from a board room to a workspace.

Personas are essential for this task – you will need to know who you are designing for in order to work out how they are likely to behave. To get a better idea of the external influence on the user you are considering, personas can be expanded into empathy maps.

Identifying the process steps

To create the boards, you need to identify the steps required for the process you are considering. The ideal number of steps is between four and seven so the steps are not too granular.

Examples of process steps:

  • If you are considering a short timeframe such as on-boarding to a new calendar app the steps may be: download app, sign-up and login, customise account and create event.
  • For a longer timeframe, such as buying a camera, the steps could be: identify requirements and budget, select product, place order, product delivery and return product (as an extra step as this is a key part of a potential journey as well).

You’ll notice that the examples here are not brand-focused. This allows for a general journey of being on-boarded to a calendar app or buying a camera. By considering a journey more broadly we can assess gaps in the market to produce valuable new features and content for users.

Once your steps are identified, they go along the top of the user journey board in chronological order so you can step through the process as a user would.

Understanding the themes for analysis

On the left-hand side of your board you put the themes for analysis.

  • Actions: what the user needs to do to move to the next step.
  • Questions: what the user thinks of while completing the actions; what they need answering before they move to the next step.
  • Happy moments: positive, enjoyable things that improve the experience.
  • Pain points: frustrations that spoil the experience.
  • Opportunities: enhancements that could be implemented that address any of the problems identified (such as the questions or pain points). These could be new features, a snippet of content or a cross-sell – anything that makes the journey easier and more valuable.

When doing the workshop, the board is filled in row-by-row so ideas gradually develop from the factual “what does the user want to do” to the more conceptual “here is what we can do to make it better”.

User journey workshop

Running the workshop

Now you have the preparation complete, you can run the workshop.

With your board(s) – you want four to six people to a board so everyone can get involved – on the wall you begin filling the board row by row. Jumping around can cause confusion so it helps to stay focused. By working through a row at a time you develop the mindset of the user. As the map starts with facts you likely know, confidence is built to be bolder with the opportunities later.

Remember to keep the task as a general journey. It is not provider-specific and the “big picture” view has to be maintained. It is likely that people will want to put problems or solutions they already know about, but try and word them as generic points to keep the ideas open.

It is also important to check the persona is still referenced. This is especially important for the action and question rows so the opportunities suggested are targeting the correct audience.

The time needed for the workshop is dependent on the number of step chosen. For five steps in your user journey, a comfortable timeframe is roughly:

  • 15 minutes – Introduction to task (why users are important and scene setting for the workshop)
  • 25 minutes – Reading the persona/empathy map and completing the action, question, happy moment and pain point rows
  • 10 minutes – Completing the opportunities row

So the workshop can comfortably fit into an hour slot.

What you can do with the results

An important thing to remember now you have completed the workshop is that these ideas are purely assumptions. While it is likely to be along the right lines, without research of real users it is expectations of user behaviour rather than a recording of it.

With ideas that focus on users and their needs as well as opportunities for future growth, the outcomes from the workshop are likely to be valuable for both the user and service. They can help to direct the strategy going forward in forming design, content and campaign tactics.

An equally important outcome of the workshop is instilling the mind-set of the user in team members. By understanding how users behave, we can create value for the service as well as making the user’s experience more enjoyable and rewarding so they return again.

This workshop was inspired by Harry Brignull’s own Empathy & User Journey Mapping Workshop.

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