September 23, 2020
One of the most rewarding and challenging tasks for product owners is building a product that people love and stay for longer time.
Often product owners spend enormous time, funds and effort building a product, but realize the product is not quite connecting with the users as expected. As a quick fix, roll out more features expecting a favorable results.
Many of these issues can be attributed to poor understanding of the end user. One of the best way to understand the user is walking through user’s steps and capturing necessary details upfront, instead of fixing it later.
User journey is a visual representation of step by step activities the user performs to achieve a goal or a purpose. Capturing the user journey is a process of walking through the steps along with the users and collecting necessary details about their needs, expectations, behaviors, interaction and challenges. By learning more about users, you can reduce assumptions and build products that closely aligns with their needs.
If you’re working on a new type of product or solution that doesn’t exists, still you can map the user journey by identifying the steps the user will take and connecting the dots.
The mapping captures both manual or automated steps, interaction between them, tools or applications used, user attitudes while performing those activities, and any other relevant informations. For example, an online shopping user journey mapping may include the user driving to the nearby stone, navigating to the aisle, purchasing the product, paying for it and driving back to home.
The key components of user journey mappings are:
Who is the actor performing the activities. This may be buyer or seller in a marketplace platform, subscriber for a SaaS product, employer/employee in a HR application, etc. As a first step identify actors or personas performing the activities.
What activities the user is performing – list all the activities, interactions and the sequence in which the user is performing the activities. This helps to understand the business process from the user’s perspective.
Why the user is performing the activities – list motivation or challenges behind the activities. For example, a user may order a new pair of shoes from an online store to improve running or enhance aesthetic appearance. Finding the “why” would help build a product either enhancing the motivation or solving the problem.
If there are multiple user types, you can create a separate user map for each user type. Once you have the data, you can look at the commonalities and differences between the users and streamline the process later.
The user journey mapping may seems laborious and not necessary at the early stage. But, without proper understanding of user, you may end up building an application with many gaps, poor user experience or conversion. It takes much more effort and expensive to fix it later.
Behind every application there is a set of processes or workflows. Over the years many activities from shopping, travel or ordering food that took hours or days have been cut in shot with significant time and cost savings. Using the user mapping, you can find ways to reduce waste, streamline the process either reducing or eliminating certain steps and thus passing on those savings to users.
One of the main reasons for product failures is the inability to connect with the user properly. Most of the businesses created today are through word-of-month. When customers are happy, they share it with friends and family creating a ripple effect leading to viral growth. The user journey can be used as a key tool enhancing user experience.
We often see founders jump to design without proper understanding of users leading to many gaps in the process. By working with the users early on, you can remove gaps and have a smoother transition.
Applications are built to make life easier. Online shopping has grown exponentially because of the convenience to shop from home instead of going through the hassle of driving to the store, finding a parking lot, purchasing limited products, standing in the line and making payments, etc. Now, as the online shopping becomes a norm, there is a new war reducing the delivery time using drones, robots, automated vehicles, etc. By properly understanding the user, you can further help reducing the time or cost.
Unlike in the past, today’s customers have many choices. There are entirely new set of modern applications revamping the traditional business processes, automating activities and integrating with other applications creating a new set of competitive advantage.
Depending on the industry, nature of your application and target user, there are many compliance, security, and regulatory standards you may need to adhere to. Further, if your applications are catering to global user, then there are many national and international compliance requirements such as GDPR you may need to consider.
There are also industry specific standards such as HIPAA for healthcare apps. If your application helps people with disabilities, then there is compliance such as ADA to consider. The user journey mapping can help identify and tag those requirements.
When people are attracted to your product, they will find new ways to use your product. Slack, which was created as a email replacement tool, has grown into a communication and collaboration tool for enterprise. With FreelancingTeams, we’re seeing new set of customers. We built the tool with enterprise in mind, but the platform is currently used by early-stage startups with limited resources. Now, we are focusing more on early stage companies with targeted programs and features.
This is one of the most interesting and fun part of user mapping.
Shadowing is a process of observing users from distance and capturing activities without interfering their natural way of performing the activities. The objective of shadowing is to collect the “as-is” process without any judgement. This is a best way, and also, fun and interesting part of application development. I’ve personally visited to many places including manufacturing plants, sat on jury services, witnessed court proceedings and spent days at a lube station understanding their day-to-day journey. This is a great way to get to know your user better.
Meeting potential users face-to-face or virtually is the next best option. Talking to them directly is a best way to understand their pain points, the solutions they are using, tools, etc. By talking to several potential users, you can narrow down the patterns and streamline your process.
If you do not have direct access to users, then surveys may be best option to gather information. You can build a questionnaire and collect information from users. By collecting the response and analyzing, you can develop patterns and use it as a starting point.
The key objective of the user journey mapping is to get good understanding of the user and collect as much as information you can. You can use simple spreadsheet or slides to capture the journey.
We use PowerPoint slides with blocks or pictures for high level user activities and arrows for interaction. For more detail information gathering, we use spreadsheets. Please click here to download the template.
Collect as much as information as you can about the user. This may include demographics details, locations, age, gender and employment details. Additionally, you can also capture psychographics details such as the person’s behaviors, attitudes and interests.
List out all the activities the user is performing from the start to finish towards achieving the goal. These activities may include manual steps, tools, third party applications, etc. By clearly capturing the activities, tools, pain points, you can find ways to improve later. Our ultimate objective is to find ways to optimize the process and improve user experience.
Capture how the user is moving from one activity to another. For example, a buyer may drive the car to the store and then walks into the store to purchase the product.
Behind each activity there is a motivation. By capturing the details, you can either make process improvements or use appropriate user interface tactics to enhance the motivation.
What challenges your user is facing while performing the activities? Imagine if your customer has to drive miles to purchase your product. This may seems trivial, but think of cleaning your car under a foot of snow before driving to purchase your product. How frustrating it is?
What tools or application the user is using while performing the activities? The customer may use online shop to buy the product and then shares it with friends and family through social media. To increase traction, you may want to integrate with social media apps like Facebook, so your user can easily share it through your app.
In the above example, we’ve mapped the user journey of buying a drink from nearby store. By looking at the process, the customer spent ~60 mins and approximately $50 (factoring missed hourly wages). Additionally, we know the user was frustrated before getting excited or relaxed. The user journey also reveals that the user has used personal car, searched through the product list, used credit card and a point of sale system. Please click here to download the template.
In summary, the objective of the user journey is to better understand users before building the product for them. This step can save lot of time, money and frustration downstream during the development, marketing, sales or servicing your client.