A website should guide users to the places they are most likely to need, as well as meet the goals of the website owner. How this is achieved is down to user journey mapping, a process to lay out the bare bones of a website before any designing or coding happens.
What is a user journey map?
It’s a visual representation of what a website, app or piece of software will be, and how it will function for a particular set of visitors. It’s vital if you want to produce a website that is user-friendly, functional and comprehensive.
User journey maps are used to try and predict the behaviours of your visitors, which is especially important if you’re trying to convert them to purchase or sign up to a service. Long-winded processes can frustrate visitors, causing them to abandon their visit. Similarly, a lack of information can make it hard to build trust in a site, or lead to an increase in customer service enquiries.
For us, at Rubber Cheese, we use user journeys to help the team and the client build a site that works well, fulfils business goals and allows for future growth. We use four building blocks to help us do this:
- Definition of a user persona
- Path of the user journey
- Experiences visitors have at key points of the journey
- The final outcomes for the visitor and client – purchase, sign up, share etc
Defining user personas
Let’s talk about user personas – we see them as central to the process. After all, what’s a website for? It’s for people!
A user persona is a way of envisaging the types of visitors you have and attributing characteristics to them. This really helps everyone visualise who they are talking to – everyone from the project manager to the developer.
Ask questions like:
- What do they like doing?
- What influences their decision making?
- How comfortable are they with technology and the internet?
- How do you gain their trust?
The next step is to give them a main attribute and a name. It sounds strange but it works. For example Retired Ruth – she might be less confident with technology than Technological Tim, but has more buying power than Student Sophie.
Golden rules for user mapping
Keep it clear
The function of a user journey map is to visualise what could be a complex process with many variables – so it’s really important to keep the layout clear. This will help everybody involved work towards a common goal, and also helps senior management to visualise the process and get that all important buy-in.
Separate user personas if needed
Websites don’t just serve one type of person, just as one shop doesn’t serve one kind of customer. Think about the most important personas to you and put them into separate user journeys. This will help you find opportunities and challenges for all of these important visitors.
Highlight weaknesses and potential problems too
A user journey will highlight problems that you may not have seen in the outset, so you need to think rigorously about every scenario that would occur. This will flag up problems that visitors may experience with browsing, entering data, searching, purchasing or sharing.
Think across all devices
As with everything in web development, it’s about the multi-device experience. You may find it helpful to map each user persona against each kind of device – phone, tablet, desktop computer – because of the different functionality they have.
“A user journey will highlight problems that you may not have seen in the outset, so you need to think rigorously about every scenario that would occur”
Why create a user journey?
Defining the user experience not only helps with the flow of a website but will also help with the build of the site. By mapping out scenarios in the beginning, you’ll reduce the number of changes and workarounds during the build. This helps with lead times and user testing, which is beneficial to budgets.
Maps help designers, developments and content writers to understand the website – how it’s structured and what the interface will be like. It could even help with the tone of voice, as defining a user persona will help you tailor your copy.
The main aim and benefit is finding gaps and weaknesses in the journey, then resolving them to enhance the experience before any lines of code are written.