What is a User Journey?
User journeys are audience research-based visualizations of the steps a user may take in engaging with your organization. A user journey is commonly used as part of a design thinking discovery engagement. User journeys provide insight into points of friction and opportunity from the user’s point of view. Because user journeys are a visual tool they allow stakeholders to review user experiences and respond in a visceral way.
Types of User Journey
User journeys are often used in discovery processes. Commonly, user journeys are an entry point into other user experience design tools like experience maps, service design, or service blueprints. Application in part depends on the type of user journey.
Macro User Journeys
Macro user journeys look at the larger stages. For example, a macro user journey for a medical association may begin with a medical student and trace the life of the student as they move from a University to a hospital to continue medical training. As the student then transitions from med school to a residency we may find that their memberships begin to fall off. From our macro user journey, we come to understand that in the transitions from college to med school, to a hospital, and then again to a more permanent job the member who was initially signed up to be a member by a school program loses access to their .EDU email address. In addition, we may find that the student member also is under many pressures in this stage of their life. For example, moving multiple times, often to different cities, and states. The burden of student debt, and starting new families, putting pressure on personal finances. We learn that the student member, because they were made association members by their school program, never learned the value of membership or the cost of the membership. So, larger life transitions in this macro journey in addition to practical challenges around learning member value, and providing a personal email address contribute to the rate of membership drop off.
Example Macro Journey Stages and Steps:
- College Student Transitions to Medical School
- Medical School Program Provides Association Membership
- Med student completes med school and transitions to a residency at a hospital
- After residency, the early careerist moves to a new more permanent job
- Many at this stage will start a family and begin paying student loans (this is where membership begins to fall)
- The journey continues…
Micro User Journeys
In a micro user journey, the focus is more narrow. In our med student example, we understood that life changes are having an impact on membership retention. In the micro view of this journey, we understand that allowing these members to enter a personal email address might help the association keep in communication with this early career member. The micro journey then is the allowance of this additional email field.
The Value of User Journeys
User journeys provide value in many ways:
- Visual representation of key steps or stages in a member experience
- Focus stakeholders on a user-centered point of view rather than the organization’s point of view
- Identify key points of friction or opportunities for improvement
- Provide a baseline for other user experience tools like service blueprints
- Help organizations know where to focus their efforts
User journeys provide a valuable source of information for defining the problem space. This, in turn, allows organizations to focus on the key stages and steps that are causing issues for their audiences. For digital transformations correcting a point of friction can mean improved member experiences and increased member retention.