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What Is User Journey Mapping – and How to Do it Right

30th November 2020

It can be too easy to design a website in a vacuum. Not literally – that would actually be pretty hard – but figuratively. In the sense that a site looks pretty and seems to work, but has simply not been tested against real-world expectations.

It’s not sufficient, either, to develop an entire website and only then test it: if anything is wrong, it can be expensive at so late a stage to fix the problems. Web development needs to be a surer science – and therefore a sounder investment.

This is where user journey mapping comes in. What is it? Fundamentally, it is the process by which a user’s needs are considered as an integral part of web design. What does your user want and need? How can your site best give it to them?

There are a range of considerations to incorporate here: how the customer has found your brand, what segment of your target audience they sit within, what device they are using to access your site. None of these blanks can be filled in by assumptions alone – you need specific knowledge in order to plan appropriately – and design successfully.

The benefits of user journey mapping are plentiful but boil down to two essentials: improved user experience, and improved customer retention. These are inextricably linked – the more customers enjoy using your website, the more they will return.

Mapping a user journey is about creating a web experience that is frictionless for particular users. By planning the journey as the first step in development, you “bake” into your design process those elements that you have understood would be necessary to your site’s success.

To put together a good user journey map, you need to consider four core steps.

  1. Define your objectives.

    This is key: what actions are you attempting to encourage in your users? Who are your users that you’re trying to attract, and in what directions? Understanding your goals is the first step to ensuring that your site can encourage the appropriate behaviours in customers.

  2. Create target personas.

    Now, you can start to consider who your clients are. Target personas should go beyond simple demographics. Drill down to your prospects’ and consumers’ needs, their pain points and their buying processes. Think about the stage of the conversion funnel they are at. Then, write out their profiles. Yes, that is plural: it’s very likely you will have to create more than one profile to get down to the nitty-gritty – details are crucial to helping you understand your prospect consumers. Give each one a name if that will help you be more specific.

  3. Landing page optimisation.

    Once you understand who your clients are, and how they behave, you can optimise your landing pages accordingly. Think about all aspects of your page, from information architecture to the placement of your call to action, to the colours or imagery you may need to use. Figure out how to provide each user what they need – simply, easily and from dedicated responsive landing pages.

  4. Omnichannel consistency.

    The key then is to ensure that the journey you’ve mapped carries through across all your channels: from social to email, mobile to desktop, it is critical that your various user types can expect the same touch-points and the same interactions across your brand. Likewise, you’ll need to eliminate the same pain-points for each of your users wherever you find them. The same emphasis on consistency goes for your website. Whilst you want to customise each page to your dedicated user, you can only go so far until you might start losing brand consistency.  So, try to strike a balance.

If you channels link together, are optimised appropriately for your clearly defined group of user types, and all build towards the goals you have identified – well, congratulations. You have a website that does its job! And even better: you know it even before you start building it.

Guaranteed success: that what user journey mapping is – and those four steps are how to do it right.

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