A guide to user journey mapping

Monday, February 7, 2022

A user journey map is a critical foundational piece of any good business or product. It helps you understand what the experience looks like end to end from a customer's point of view. By mapping out the essential stages of your journey, you can identify friction and pain points for the user.

These user pain points need to be gathered via real insights and help inform what you need to focus on to improve your experience. Important note, if you don't have validated insights and are making assumptions, you will fail. Assumptions are just guesses and are things to validate with research. 

Where to begin?

It would help if you had done your user research, completed your value proposition, and perhaps have some user flows already created for your product. You can map out a user journey once you understand how your product should work and the key stages. If you already have a service or product live, it is not too late! It would be best to create a customer journey map capturing the current experience.

How to structure a customer journey

I have done many user/customer journey maps over my 17 years as a designer, and this format is what I have found to be most effective. Still, you can add any extra detail you feel you want in there, but this is the critical baseline information. 

Key stages

Firstly you need to identify the key stages a user goes through from start to finish with your product or service. The steps might include pre-purchase, purchase/sign up, use, and cancellation but not in those words necessarily. 

Here you can see an example of journey stages for a fitness product in the green diamonds.

Customer journey map
Fitness product customer journey


At each stage, a user will have a set of goals; what are they trying to achieve? By aligning each step with customer goals, it helps us understand why each stage exists, what does the user need to get from each stage in the experience? 

Customer map goals

User Flows

Here you want a high - medium level user flow; it needs to show the critical parts of the user's experience through the different pages they visit and things they do. We use boxes and arrows primarily to show this. How detailed you want to go with this depends on the complexity of your product; if it's very complex, then don't dive into a full detailed user flow. Keep it slightly higher level; otherwise, you will have too much information to digest. 

User flows
Here, we did a high-level map for this digital product with enough detail.

Key Personas

I have adjusted this over my years of building journey maps to focus on the critical personas as you step through the experience. It would be best if you had a good grasp of your personas and had done customer interviews. The research from the interviews allows you to map out either the primary personas who are the most important type of user or map it out for all your critical personas if there is more of an even split. You can see we have created a path for each persona type to map out their experience in this example we have 4 different personas. 

customer journey map goals
Customer journey map goals

You will ultimately have detailed user flows that are stand-alone for critical parts of the user journey.


If you have an existing product or design files, it is good to use those to match alongside the user flow; this will help everyone understand what part of the experience you are talking about. 

Screens mapped to journey


For each stage, you will have a touchpoint; it could be an in-person interaction, an email being read or someone on their computer. These are different touch points with your product or team and should be recorded. Each touchpoint helps see how our users interact with our products or services.


This part is critical and where you need to make sure you have done your prep work. Any insights you have from customer interviews, analytics data, feedback surveys etc., should go here. The trick is to align them to the relevant part of the experience. You will find that some insights are not always appropriate to a particular stage, and more the entire experience, you can put them somewhere along the top to call out. 

Pain points

Like insights, these should be known problems and often direct quotes from customers on things that are not working for them or causing trouble. It would be best to keep these pain points relevant to the customer rather than pain points around admin, tech or processes in your teams. 

User journey map


Ideas are where your team can put any initial ideas you have to fix that stage of the journey; depending on how big the pain point is, this may need an ideation workshop to flesh out each idea to test and learn. 

Current projects

We often have current projects in play that address several pain points; I find it helpful to list them below so you can see what your team is already addressing. 

How do you use the journey once complete

Once completed, you will see a straightforward journey through your website or digital product, and you will have clusters of pain points associated with different parts. The more red post-it notes in one part of the journey, the bigger the problem. By looking at your most problematic areas, you should form How Might We statements; these will help you ideate solutions. 


You can use a prioritisation map first to understand the most significant problems to solve. Once you have many ideas on how to solve a solution, you can then rank them by feasibility and value to define what you need to work on first. You need to understand your business goals as this will help you know which areas are most valuable to improve. Here, you can read more about the critical foundational UX work needed for every product or website. 

priortization grid
Priority Grid

In conclusion 

Whether you have a website, a digital product or any experience a customer goes through, you should map out the journey and understand the needs, goals, and pain points to help you improve and understand the value of what's essential to work on. 

It would help if you kept the journey map as a living document that highlights known pain points in a customers path and continues to inform your discovery work and backlog. 

If you need any help with discovery work, journey mapping, personas, or anything else in the UX space, please reach out and let's chat about how we might help. 

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Monday, February 7, 2022


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