In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how intelligent content and how a user journey map is one of the essential instruments a content strategist can use to present vital storytelling and visualizations of the user’s experience.

In the second and final installment of this series, we’ll cover how to build a user journey map – essentially, how to create and map out its structure.

Building A User Journey Map

Your first step here is to understand the user. You may create personas, which represent who your user is and what motivates them. A single persona will suffice in most cases, though the more markets and industries a company works within, the more personas are needed to represent those users.

There can, however, be too many personas. It’s best to narrow them down into groups, then utilize three to five. Then, create a user journey map for each. This will garner the best-informed results.

Once the persona is defined, we move on to understanding their respective user journey maps. User journey maps are vast and varied – as simple as an Excel spreadsheet and as complex as an infographic filling an entire wall. They can cover different scopes and scenarios. Some are very simple and broad, while others are very detailed and specific. They may reflect a customer journey, a buyer’s journey, roles or life stages.

However, they all carry a similar structure:

  • Actions/phases: These include awareness, research, evaluation, and purchase, just to name a few.  
  • Tasks/behaviors: What exactly is the user doing?
  • Goals: What is the user trying to achieve?
  • Decisions/questions: What questions arise in the user’s mind as they progress through the actions/phases? What decisions must they make?
  • Thoughts/feelings: This is the heart of the map, namely, what are users thinking and feeling? Are they lost, anxious, happy, annoyed?
  • Channels/touchpoints: When does a user interact and where? Think: websites, email, social media.
  • Insights/ownership: What are the takeaways and/or actions?

Gathering the data to inform this structure will include both behavioral and perception metrics. It’s essential to address the qualitative data (perceptions) as well as the quantitative data (behavioral).

It’s also imperative that the voice of the customer is not only heard, but felt, on the map. The qualitative data will give the map its emotional side of the story; it answers the why of the user. Alternately, the quantitative answers the what and how.

Important data sources include:

  • Customer inquiries: Comments, emails, and social posts
  • Website search and keyword rankings
  • Website analytics: What pages are visited and for how long
  • Browsing behaviors: Using tools such as heatmaps, Hotjar or Fullstory
  • Form submissions
  • Product sales
  • Customer Surveys: ContentWRX, Foresee

Create the Structure

After we gather the data, we now move on to formatting the structure. Start with a simple Excel spreadsheet to outline the map matrix. I would suggest holding off on visualizing at the outset. While this may lead to a very striking and beautiful user journey map, it could mislead direction from faulty insights and erroneous outcomes.

During this process, place your user personas front and center, along with any segment or scope that is outlined.

Follow with the actions/phases. Like the user journey map themselves, these too vary between business models. However, a commonality will appear. More than likely they contain at least these four steps:

  • Awareness
  • Research
  • Evaluation
  • Purchase

Outline all of the tasks/behaviors a customer accomplishes in each phase. From concrete or less tangible, this is essentially what the user is doing. Tasks can be as simple as searching for X product, comparing products, or downloading a PDF.

Next, include goals. What is the user trying to achieve as they move through each phase?

Identify thoughts/feelings and questions associated with each action listed. Feelings and thoughts can run the gamut, from joy to sorrow, happy to sad, confused to anxious.

Channels/touchpoints may include email, social media, and specific web pages. A journey may have started with an email, which prompted them to go to a landing page, on which a link to the web site took them to a specific web page and then to a contact form, or they went back to the landing page to create an account or subscribe to a service or even purchase a product.

When it comes to channels and touchpoints, it rarely is a direct link from point A to B to checkout or form fill. A search term leading to a product page or signing up for a newsletter can go many different and distinct directions, depending upon the persona defined.

Map the Structure

Now you’re ready to map your structure.

Keep in mind that several aspects of your user journey map are interrelated. Channels/touchpoints should align with goals and actions/phases Thoughts/feelings will align with decision/questions. This aligning of the data is an important step, as this is often where idiosyncrasies such as discordant experiences and brand discrepancies begin to appear.

The essence of the user journey map is to uncover pain points and moments of truth. To that end, the insights/ownership aspect of your user journey map, (sometimes referred to as opportunities), is the final step.

It includes elements causing the most grievances, disorientation, and irritation, along with highlighting the clear, confident, and decisive direction of your user journey map. The actions to be taken to optimize the user’s journey are also outlined and defined here, including ownership assignment.

Now that you’ve completed your Excel sheet, it’s time for visualization. Transform your spreadsheet into a visual portrayal of your user journey map. It’s a powerful way to illustrate your user’s feelings, motivations, and emotions, isn’t it?

Providing your users with a seamless, noteworthy journey through your website shapes not only their overall impression of your site but also of your brand.

It helps you understand their motivations, and gives context on why a product may – or may not – be the answer to their needs. A user journey map can also help facilitate empathy, which in turn helps you provide a well-thought-out, optimized, and guided passage through your site for users, giving users an ideal experience.

The Author

Jennie Lane spent much of her career as a National Sales Director with publishers, gift and home décor wholesale companies. Upon seeing the turn towards online shopping, she earned her degree in web development. She has been building websites for over 20 years, utilizing her sales training to achieve results online, generating leads in a B2B environment. Currently working in the Aerospace and Defense industry at PacSci EMC, she spends most of her time focused on user experience, creating and implementing content strategies, SEO, email marketing and pay per click campaigns.

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