What Is A User Journey Map and How Do You Create One?
Without a proper user journey map, it can be hard to engage users in a meaningful way across every stage of their journey. In this post, we will cover what exactly a user journey map is, what it isn’t and how to build one in six steps – so let’s dive in!
User journey tl;dr
- A user journey map visualizes all steps taken by a particular user to reach a particular goal while using your product.
- The difference between a user journey map and a customer journey map is that the former essentially involves steps users take to become customers, and the latter involves all interactions between customers and your product after the purchase.
- A user journey map shows how a particular user interacts with your product, while a user flow reflects the ideal user journey in the eyes of a product team.
- While a user journey map reflects one part of a particular user’s experience, a user experience journey map reflects all segments and interactions between a user and your product.
- A user journey map helps you turn users into customers and retain them.
- To create a user journey map, you need to follow six steps: set an objective, define a user persona, define the user persona’s journey, identify milestones, fill in touchpoints and use a journey mapping tool.
- Users will interact with your product differently, so you need to create a user persona and then a specific user journey map for that persona – our guide will help you with that.
- Define the stages you will include in a user journey map basing on the previously defined objective.
- Identify milestones (key points) in the user journey, which will help you keep track of where a particular user is in the journey.
- Touchpoints are small events that need to happen for a user to reach a milestone – for example, you can create an onboarding checklist out of them.
- If you have followed all the previous five steps, you can then use a user journey mapping tool.
What is a user journey map?
A user journey embodies all steps a particular user takes to reach a particular goal when using your product. Usually shown in the form of a visual map, it considers all product adoption phases in your funnel.
Depending on your objective when building one (we’ll cover this in a bit!) a user journey map can be focused on:
- A current state or a future state perspective
- A single-stage in the journey or start to finish
- Understanding the user persona better (Day in the Life journey map)
But before you roll up your sleeves, you need to decide on what you are actually trying to do. If you google related terms, you may find customer journey map, and user flow terms used as synonyms. That’s really misleading.
Why? Consider the difference between a customer and a user in the SaaS industry:
- A customer is a person who is looking to spend money on your product or already had bought something in the past (a group of customers includes: leads, potential customers, prospects, MQL, SQL, etc.)
- A user is a person who starts using your product without spending money on it (users sign up for a trial, create freemium accounts, start interacting with your SaaS product)
User journey map vs customer journey map
First of all, a user journey looks like a customer journey.
It consists of steps taken by a user, points of contact with your product, and how they feel as they’re trying to achieve a particular goal inside your product.
There is one major difference, though.
A customer journey involves all interactions between customers and your company after the purchase. It is very high-touch and involves different company departments – from customer success to sales.
On the other hand, a user journey is normally low-touch. Its main goal is to convert users into customers, so most interactions occur within the product itself.
If you want to visualize your user journey, you need to create a user journey map. It will help you determine the most common problems users encounter along their journey and possible solutions.
User journey map vs user flow
Contrary to what you can find on the internet, user journey maps are not the same as user flows. While the user journey map shows how users interact with your product, user flow shows how the ideal user journey should look like according to a product team.
User journey map vs user experience journey mapping
The difference is that a user journey map may refer to one segment of the experience that the user has, while a user experience journey map includes every single interaction between users and your product.
Benefits of using a user journey map
Imagine you got lost in the forest, but you actually have a detailed map that will help you get out of the woods on you. Now, what do you do?
A) Refer to the map
B) …throw that map away?
I don’t think you’d choose B.
But I see option B chosen in the software industry over and over again.
Companies are looking for a product-market fit in the jungle full of lookalike solutions until they find it.
Of course, without a map.
However, there is a way to find your PMF quicker. And it leads through a remarkable user experience.
Your users need to be able to recognize the value of your product instantly. It will be the reason they turn into customers.
The next thing you must do is keep providing positive experiences as it keeps users loyal to your product. This will help you acquire new customers and grow the company’s revenue.
You can do that by following these steps:
- Understand how the user interacts with the product
- Personalize onboarding for each user persona
- Activate users faster – by knowing what the activation point is, you can build in-app experiences such as checklists and tooltips to guide users and help them see value in your product faster.
Before you can take these steps though – you need to know how your user journey. And to do that – you need to visualize it by creating a user journey map.
How to create a user journey map?
Step 1: Set an objective for your user journey map
Start by asking – why am I creating this map?
The reasons may be different:
- To improve the specific stage in the user journey
- To eliminate friction at one of the touchpoints
- To improve your PQL (Product Qualified Lead)-to-paid user conversion rate
In other words – what is the big objective you are trying to achieve?
You can zoom in or zoom out on your map as much as you need.
If you don’t set a specific objective, your user journey map won’t be specific enough and it won’t give you the outcomes you’re looking for.
Step 2: Who is your user persona?
Before you start creating a user journey map, you need to know who are you creating this map for.
In SaaS, the final look of the map will depend on the job-to-be-done and use case. Such maps will differ from each other as users will interact with your projects differently.
Basically, you need to remember these things when creating a user persona:
- Preferably use real data (observed and researched) if you can, not guesses or assumptions.
- When creating a user persona, ask real users simple questions. That way you won’t incorporate your own biases when building a persona.
- Focus on asking open-ended questions which don’t suggest the answers nor influence the users.
- If you are just starting out, educated guesses are fine if you don’t rely just on them. Nevertheless, you should start collecting real data as soon as you can.
If you want to learn more about creating user personas, check out an article we wrote on building a user persona (including 10 SaaS user persona examples).
Step 3: Define the user persona’s journey stages you’re mapping
The objective that you have defined in Step 1 will determine what stages you need to include in your map.
For example, if you focus on optimizing the user secondary and tertiary onboarding only, your map will only include those stages.
Remember to be specific and focus only on the stages that will have an impact on your objective.
Step 4: Identify milestones in the user journey
Milestones are key points in the user journey, which usually happen at the end of each stage. They are an essential part of creating a user journey map.
Milestones help you define the journey a user is taking and also help you track where the user is at any particular point.
You can use milestones to keep track of where a user is in their journey. You should also set a specific goal for each milestone. Using user journey analytics, you will track each goal completion rate and know how your users advance through their journey.
Example of a milestone: the activation point in a user’s journey, which happens when the user completes a set of actions in your product.
Want to track goals across the user journey and build no-code in-app experiences to drive goal completion? Get a Userpilot demo and see how easy it can be!
Step 5: Fill in the blanks in your user journey with touchpoints
If milestones are key points in a user’s journey, touchpoints are the smaller events that need to happen for a user to reach a milestone.
Let me give you an example – the primary onboarding steps the user has to take to reach the activation point. If we are talking about a social media planning platform, a user must go through the following touchpoints to reach a milestone:
- Create account
- Connect social media accounts
- Schedule first posts
In order to push the users to activate (which is essential for them to keep using your product!) you can e.g. create an onboarding checklist that will motivate them to hit these key touchpoints faster.
Step 6: Build the journey using a journey mapping tool
Firstly, add images with what the user sees at each touchpoint.
Secondly, try to identify possible friction points and obstacles.
Thirdly, use product analytics and session recordings.
Lastly, you will need a journey mapping tool. Most of them (if not all) offer premade user journey templates so it will boost the process of creating such maps significantly. You can then fill out them with qualitative or quantitative research.
User journey mapping tools
We’ve already talked about user journey mapping tools in case you are looking for a comparison, but here’s our shortlist:
The key focus of UXPressia is improving customer experience. Inside, you will find many ready-to-use templates such as user journey maps for customers or even those for onboarding new team members.
Miro is one of the most popular tools out there. You can start using it by choosing one of the templates, including user journey maps or kanban boards. They strongly focus on product education and help customers start as quickly as possible.
Do you want to keep using Google Sheets? LucidChart might be your choice – it offers a great integration. It’s also really easy to start creating the first diagrams; however, it’s not a dedicated tool for user journey mapping.
Conceptboard is a tool dedicated to remote teams which can use it as an online whiteboard. Thanks to Conceptobard, teams can collaborate regardless of the location.
Smaply helps you notice both pain points and moments of truths in the user journey. You can use it to map your user base and identify user personas and team influencers regardless of the journey stage.
As it says on the website, FlowMapp offers UX tools for web design. You can use it to create various types of flow maps, including user journey maps.
Creating a user journey map can help you identify users’ pain points along their journey and help you ultimately increase conversions and retention.
In summary, you can use:
- Interviews with real users
- Data analytics
- Session recordings
And then follow our six steps when creating user journey maps.
Start with defining an objective of a particular user journey. Then proceed to create a user persona for that journey. The next step is to define stages of the journey of that persona.
Then, identify milestones in that user journey, and then touchpoints needed to reach these milestones. Finally, take all gathered data, information, and images, proceed to a user journey mapping tool and create a user journey map.
Using user journey mapping tools may be a lot of help – especially if you are just starting out. Most of them offer ready-to-use templates that you can use and fill out with your own qualitative and quantitative research.
The most important thing to remember is that creating and utilizing a user journey map is not a one-off task – it’s an ongoing process!