Maria just landed an interview at an up-and-coming technology firm. She visits the company’s website in preparation for her interview but doesn’t find much explaining their mission, work culture, and team make-up. The job description that’s posted isn’t very detailed and Maria is left wondering how best to present herself in the interview. When she arrives on site she participates in many one-on-one interviews answering questions that feel disjointed and unrelated to the job title. At the end of the day Maria isn’t sure how well she performed, and she’s no longer sure she wants the position

How can the firm streamline the hiring process in order to bring out the best in qualified candidates like Maria?

Bob and Judy are enjoying their retirement on vacation in the big city. They’ve been looking forward to exploring the museum of fine arts to view famous works. They run into trouble finding parking when they arrive and wonder if they should have take public transportation. Upon entering the museum they are instantly overwhelmed by the different hallways, elevators, and staircases. They look for signage and museum employees but aren’t successful, and they’re worried they will miss the tour they scheduled.

How can the museum reduce Bob and Judy’s stress and make their visit more pleasurable?

Mateo is a first generation college student who is struggling in his biology course. He sometimes studies with peers from his class and seeks out quiet space in the library to work, yet his grades are still suffering. Mateo is becoming frustrated and worries that he’s just not cut out for college life. He’s unaware of the support services provided by the campus learning center and feels like his college dreams will never be realized. How can his school help Mateo access the services he’s already paid for?

An Approach to Turn Pains into Gains

We find some of the most innovative organizations delving more deeply into their client’s experience with empathy driven design. One of the best approaches unpacks the client experience from their unique perspectives in order to discover their pains, address them through design, and make their interactions with the organization as positive as possible. This human-centered approach is known across industries as User Experience (UX) journing mapping. Ever popular in the tech world, UX journey maps have made their way from application designers into the mainstream with all kinds of organizations using them to better understand their clientele.

UX journey maps employ a discovery approach that combines empathy and design to unlock insight into the wants and needs of a target audience. This target audience varies across industries and can include customers, clients, students, patients, employees, donors, and more; really any individuals the organization seeks to serve. To unearth specific insight into how our target audience thinks, feels, and behaves we need a design approach that captures data in real time as our user interacts with our products or services for a specified duration. This is where UX journey maps come in. This unique methodology combines rich stories, feelings and emotions, with hard numbers to improve the experience for the user.

Key Elements of UX Journey Maps

UX maps are visual representations of users’ journeys through a service, process, or experience. They allow teams to ideate opportunities that emerge from the discovery process all visually presented to create shared meaning leading to interventions and redesigns. Take a look at the following example of a user experience that many of us have undertaken: ordering a pizza.

This UX map depicts a customer’s journey from the beginning to the end of an online pizza order. We can see the targeted persona (who this map is about) and scenario (what they are doing) at the top, as well as their goals and expectations for the event. The stages the user journeys through are listed in sequence as well as the actions and behaviors associated with each stage. Also included are the touchpoints (points of interaction) when the user has significant engagement along with their specific actions and behaviors. Next is a graph depicting the user’s fluctuating emotional state and their associated thoughts and considerations. Finally, the UX mapping team generates opportunities for improvements based on their learning and determines who will carry out these recommendations, what is may cost, and how it could interact with other related processes.

UX journey maps document the discrete parts of the experience in stages that articulate the basic steps the user takes in a sequential format. A particular user is identified for each map, but organizations should consider creating multiple maps that depict the experience of a variety of users (like online versus in store customers). During a UX project’s design, teams identify touchpoints that represent each place or moment in time that a user interacts with a person, product, technology, or service. These touchpoints include the context around the interaction between the user and the experience provider, such as online, at a service counter, in the classroom, etc. Multiple data points are displayed in a graphic representation of the experience so that the information is organized in a format that is easily understood by multiple audiences, including the UX mapping team and various stakeholders.

UX journey maps offer insight into how users act, think, and feel over time which presents opportunities to validate practices or design improvements. UX researchers use varied data collection methods such as observation, ethnography, descriptive analysis, interviews, and artifact collection, and analyze the discrete components through the triangulation of qualitative and quantitative data.

This approach helps teams increase empathy for those they serve and provides organizations with valuable, actionable information with the ultimate purpose relieving pains and enhancing the user’s experience.

Benefits Extend Beyond the Map

Teams that employ UX journey mapping into their planning efforts experience multiple benefits that last beyond map building. According to a 2016 survey conducted by Nielsen Norman Group, respondents reported that UX mapping helps unify their team’s vision and facilitates meaningful collaboration around common goals. UX mapping teams establish personal connections with their target clientele because they can see how their daily work impacts their ultimate experience. Perhaps most beneficial, the UX mapping process reveals valuable information hidden in plain sight; respondents revealed that UX maps uncovered previously unknown information and scenarios no one anticipated. Gaining this inside information means that leaders and their teams can determine appropriate interventions and act on them with confidence, knowing that they have their user’s best interests at heart.

UX journey mapping is an innovative approach that leverages collaboration in teams, as all members are encouraged to offer their unique perspectives. These perspectives are then guided by actionable data from real users, which keeps the focus on empathy driven innovation and change instead of maintaining the status quo. At Sierra Learning Solutions we believe that innovation and design approaches show great promise in a variety of industries including business, education, healthcare, entertainment, and more. UX journey mapping is an approach we can employ to improve our products and services and fulfill the missions of our organizations, with their benefits limited only by our imaginations.

If you find this interesting and you’d like to learn more, we have an extended discussion in our latest book.

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