The Role Of User Journey Mapping In Product Development

Roshni Shaikh

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52% of users say a bad mobile experience makes them lose faith in a company.

On the other hand, for every dollar spent on providing a good UX, businesses receive $100 in return. It’s a whopping 9,900% ROI. This is how important qualitative research is for businesses today.

Indeed, quantitative data plays a massive role in B2B businesses. It gives you access to hard facts, numbers, objective insights, trends, and patterns.

However, it often fails to communicate the users' lived experiences and explain the “moments of realization” that actually contribute to user retention.

Quantitative research falls short of articulating the value of a software product from a user’s perspective. This is where a user journey map fills the gap by communicating the frustrations and experiences of the end user.

“What features your customers ask for is never as interesting as why they want them.” – Cindy Alvarez, Microsoft

What is user journey mapping?

“User journey maps are used to capture the relationship and interactions between a user and a product. They bridge the communication gap between the users and the business by representing the intangible services and exchanges.”

The process of envisioning a user’s interaction with a product or a service to complete a task or achieve a goal is known as User Journey Mapping.

Businesses employ these design-thinking processes to understand customers’ requirements, empathize with their pain points, analyze their scenarios, identify areas of enhancement, optimize user experience, and track changes made over a period of time.

User journey mapping helps address technological bottlenecks. It helps fulfill user expectations through experiences and uncover scopes of enhancement.

A product owner uses the following information to provide a solution to improve a customer’s user experience.

Essential elements in a user journey map

There are several key components that make up a user journey map. Let’s dissect each of the components.

1. User persona

Creating a user persona is the first step in journey mapping. A detailed description of the ideal user, their needs, goals, and objectives is collated and made the focal point of this process.

An example of user persona specifies a user’s credentials, functions, and intentions

An example of user persona specifies a user’s credentials, functions, and intentions

2. Touchpoints

User touchpoints are the various occasions of user contact with the product. For example, when a user logs in to your product, the login screen becomes a product touchpoint. Similarly, every point of interaction with the user is a touchpoint.

For example, at the customer/user stage of the journey, the app store is a touchpoint.

An example of software touchpoints through a user journey

An example of software touchpoints through a user journey

3. Scenario or Point of view

The perspective of the user or the actor in the journey is important. For example, a company may buy a Microsoft product for employees. And the employees can be software developers or marketers. They are two different users with completely different goals. Therefore, the journey map arrives at a different narrative for each of the users.

4. User actions and mindset

To create a journey map, the first step is to gather a sequence of user interactions and organize them into a chronological timeline. This helps to understand the different stages of the user's journey and the touchpoints where they engage with the product or service.

“The crux of a journey map's storyboard revolves around the user's actions, thoughts, and emotions throughout their experience.”

5. Optimization and ownership

The purpose of the journey-mapping process is to locate user experience friction points and improve usability.

This process results in valuable insights concerning the overall experience. These insights should be documented and divided based on roles. The product owner overlooks these insights and assigns ownership to the team members to achieve usability optimization.

When are User Journey Maps Required?

Product architects build prototypes with the help of user journey maps. User journey mapping is a crucial process as it helps empathize with the end user’s experience. Journey mapping is part of a bigger process called UX Mapping which comprises 4 steps namely:

  1. Empathy mapping

  2. User/Customer journey mapping

  3. Experience mapping

  4. Service blueprint

UX Mapping cheat sheet

UX Mapping cheat sheet by NNGroup

Empathy map: It’s a user persona segment that gives out a visual representation of user behavior. It uncovers gaps in user research and helps understand the user and their expectations in a more detailed sense.

User/Customer journey mapping: It’s a compilation of the details of the stages of interaction between a product and a user.

Experience mapping: It’s a crucial design-thinking approach to capturing end-to-end user behavior and the user’s response to the product journey.

Service blueprint: It’s a relational depiction between users, processes, product functions, and operations. It’s a roadmap to delivering a service.

Steps to creating a user journey map with examples

Now that we’ve enlisted the essential elements, the next step is to logically weave the elements to create a journey map.

  1. Define the scope

  2. Create a user persona

  3. Plot the journey by combining actions at each touchpoint

  4. Write user stories to capture real-time interactions

User Journey Mapping Examples

Let’s understand how user stories are segmented and compiled based on roles, scenarios, and stages with examples.

Example 1: Journey mapping and touchpoints

Here’s a snapshot of a customer looking to switch from their current mobile plan to a new one and how they navigate through the four stages of conversions:

  1. Acknowledging the point of friction: Reviewing the existing plan and determining the parameters for a new plan

  2. Comparing the possible solutions: Research various plans with alternate mobile carrier companies

  3. Identifying the deal-breaker option: Assessing the best offer out of the available options

  4. Making the switch: Decide on the new plan and cancel the current plan

User journey mapping example

An example depicting the steps a user takes to switch to a new mobile plan

Example 2: User journey mapping to develop an app

If the goal of a person is to build an app, here’s a journey mapping example that shows the multi-dimensional steps and criteria involved in the process.

Customer journey mapping example

An example of a user journey that captures the needs and challenges of a person looking to develop an app

Example 3: Product discovery journey and user stories

Let’s take the scenario of a person who’s looking for a productivity app as they’re struggling to find a suitable solution.

The below example anticipates the kind of friction, the highs, and the lows a user faces at every touchpoint, during the discovery phase.

Stage 1: Encounters a problem – Forgets important tasks

Stage 2: Searches for a solution – Finds productivity apps

Stage 3: Point of friction – Finds it hard to choose the best plan

Stage 4: Point of relief – Finds a suitable plan

Stage 5: Point of friction – Finds the app overwhelming to use

Stage 6: Moment of realization– Finds a solution that works for them

User segmentation and user experience example

An example of the various segments of user experiences shown in the form of user stories during the discovery journey

Use Case vs User Story

User Story is usually concise in length, less formal, and focuses on the user describing the why of the feature. It’s more like an invitation for input or discussion between the developer and the customer.

User stories are often used to create timelines for release planning. They are written by users who state what they expect the system to do for them. It’s written in layman’s language without any technical syntax or constraints. They are written and updated throughout the product development phase as and when features are added or updated.

User stories follow a clear writing structure like this one:

A [user_role] wants to [verb] to achieve [desired_outcome]

Use cases are written from the point of a specific actor who performs specific functions/activities. They talk about how the product works from this user role’s POV. It focuses on who uses the product and for what purpose.

Both use cases and user stories are business tools used to define and prioritize features and functionalities.

Difference between user stories and use cases

User stories Vs. Use Cases

Difference between user stories and user journeys

A user journey map is made up of several user stories. User stories are components of the user journey process.

Difference between user stories and user journeys

User story map made up of several user stories. Image by NNGroup

User Stories vs Product Requirements

User stories and product requirements are used interchangeably. However, there’s a subtle difference between the two.

User stories consider and define the value and purpose of the product feature from the end user’s perspective in one or two sentences.

Product requirements define the value and purpose of the product feature from the product’s position. They are detailed, often highly technical, and take longer to write.

User stories are part of the agile development model, while product requirements are typically associated with the waterfall development model.

User stories are adapted as per the requirements and prioritized based on importance. Product requirements, on the other hand, are well-defined before the start of the development cycle.

Agile methodology pushes user stories because product requirements become redundant as the product evolves. It's hard to define what the product should do from the beginning.

Let’s understand this better with the help of examples.

Example 1:

Let’s look at a user story for an app that sends push notifications when the user arrives or leaves a particular geolocation.

User Story: I want an app to notify me when I arrive or leave a particular geolocation.

Product Requirement: A reminder app integrated with geolocation services.

You see, a user story is much more specific and empathizes with a user in a real-time scenario. Whereas a product requirement is only focused on a function.

Example 2:

How do you write a user story for a feature that helps the user reset their password?

User Story: I want a feature for an application where the system allows login through an alternate means even if I forget my password.

Product Requirement: The user can reset the password for the application and receive a password reset email with a unique link that expires in 15 minutes.

The end goal of a user story and product requirement is the same, but user stories are more powerful as they focus on the customer’s needs and experience.

User Story Templates and User Story Mapping Templates

User Story Template

A user story template covers the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘why’ behind a requirement in agile development and provides context to the development team.

Every card of the user story showcases a single story of the user’s interaction with the product. It helps design and develop a product or feature focused on desired outcomes.

User story template

User Story Template by

User Story Mapping Template

A user story map is a powerful modeling tool that helps scale the functionality of a product. It helps establish a structural and functional relationship between user stories that make the product perform a set of strategic functions to meet the user's needs.

Organizing the product backlog list into multiple levels and dimensions with the help of story mapping clarifies the function and help with task prioritization. It enables the product owners to plan product releases effectively.

Team leaders use the templates for weekly sprints with the team members. Project managers also use these templates as they work on the project to control the deadlines in sprints.

Here’s one such template of a user story map that can be used to log various scenarios while developing software products.

user story mapping template

A reusable template for user story mapping


88.5% of users abandon slow-loading and non-responsive websites.

61.5% quit sites with bad navigation and poor user experience. Outdated design and poor content structure trigger mistrust. This can prolong your customer sales cycle and can adversely impact the revenue.

User journey mapping is a crucial step in developing a product that delivers a premium user experience. The process involves expert product owners, managers, and UI architects.

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