Journey Map

What is it?

Our interactions with a particular subject or system occur over time; at some point, we're novices, and as we use a system or have an experience, we gain knowledge and understanding. These interactions over time indicate opportunities for critical designed interventions to help steer tenuous or precarious behavior. For example, when people are afflicted by a difficult disease, they may go through several large phases:

  • unawareness, in which they don't know they have the disease
  • awareness, in which they've learned they have the disease but have not yet taken any course of action.
  • action, in which they've begun treatment.
  • evaluation, in which they examine whether the treatment is working.

The phases are hardly as discrete as described above because each phase is fraught with emotion, difficult decisions to be made, and social consequences. A journey map is a visualization of these actions, emotions, and decisions. It describes how people interact over time and how designed systems support or hinder intellectual and emotional progress. It also identifies areas of opportunity for design-led system changes, as well as key areas of success. Because the journey map is created early in the design process, it can help define what should be designed.

How do I do it?

  1. Identify and define the journey qualities of the situation you hope to examine. You may go through several iterations of the map before you identify the correct qualities, so it's often easier to start with the following typical ones and revise later:
    • people involved
    • processes used
    • technologies used
    • major decisions faced
    • primary emotions evoked

    The qualities you choose become the labels for the y axis of the map.

  2. Identify a single moment: a research-derived moment you know the most about. Consider this moment to be a phase. Name it; you might call it "Normal Situation" or "Everyday Situation." On the case of a person encountering a disease, the name might be "Normal Care" or "Treating a Disease." Write the name on the x axis of the map.
  3. Write the journey qualities for this phase and their components in a table. For example:
  4. Identify the phase directly before the "everyday situation." For example, you might identify the phase before "Normal Care" as "New Patient." Fill in the details for this phase:
  5. Continue to look back in time, as far as is relevant. At each step back, name the phase, make a new column for it, and fill it in.
  6. Repeat the process moving forward in time. What will happen to the patient? A journey map can capture the idealized state, the negative/problem state, or both, so you could continue to examine what might happen if the patient's medical treatment fails or symptoms change.
  7. Critically examine the completed journey map from the following perspectives:
    • Are the initial journey qualities correct?
    • Are the mapped phases correct?
    • Are there gaps in your research or understanding?

An example Journey Map

Use the map as a point of departure for further research, and continue to revise it.

When should I use it?

Use a journey map throughout the process of research and synthesis to identify ways to make a service more effective, pleasurable, or useful.

What is the output, and how can I use it?

The output of a journey map is a visualization of how time plays a role in service offerings, and can be used to provoke further discussion or illustrate areas where more research can be done.

Where can I learn more?

Read "The Value of Customer Journey Maps: A UX Designer's Personal Journey" by Joel Flom

Continue to the Next Chapter:

Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving