Building a Vision from a Journey Map

Jared Spool

July 23rd, 2012

The task of coming up with a long-term vision of your design can be a daunting one. It’s a lot of responsibility to try to imagine what an ideal experience can be, then render a possible design that makes that easier.

However, there’s a way to break down the problem into bite-sized bits that make it far easier. By doing that, a vision emerges from a series of smaller, um, shall we call them, visionettes.

Here’s how you do it:

First, go out and study people using today’s solutions, whether it be your current design or just how people solve the inherent problems with whatever they have. As you’re observing them, note the order of the steps they take and whether each step is frustrating or delightful.

The second step is to create a journey map that shows the experience of the user. Typically, these are a horizontal timeline that represent each step. The higher the point on the timeline, the less frustrated and more delighted the user is at that point. When you’re done, you’ll have mapped out the current experience for that user. Repeat for each user and look for patterns.

[If you're not familiar with journey maps, there are some great examples in this article by Megan Grocki and Jamie Thompson.]

The third step is to draw an archetypal journey map – one for an imaginary user that falls into the patterns you’ve observed. (If you do more than one of these, you basically have multiple personas to work with. Not necessary, but might provide some interesting insights, especially if the activities vary widely.)

An abstract map of the current experience and the aspirational experience

The fourth step is to take the archetypal journey map and look at the frustrating dips in the experience. Ask your team: what could we do to make each of these better? Can we change the design to be more delightful? Is there a way to eliminate the step altogether?

By focusing on the individual bits of frustration, we can get a jumpstart on what our overall vision might be. It’s easy to take, say a hard-to-use dialog and imagine a cleaned up version. Then we can do that two or three more times, and see something that flows more smoothly.

Once we’ve tackled all the low bits in our design, we’ll have a good starting point for a future vision that is a more delightful experience.

One Response to “Building a Vision from a Journey Map”

  1. Kathy Sierra Says:

    I love this, and just want to add something…

    What that top line really means (and how you attempt to move the UX toward that line) can be subtle and even counter-intuitive. I agree 100% that we should look for ways to make each step less frustrating or (often best move of all) to eliminate a step completely.

    But if the goal is continuous “delight”, we implicitly limit experiences to those that are less difficult, less stressful, less challenging, and… possibly less deeply rewarding. Some things are *just hard*. Really hard. And some of those are the most valuable and rich experiences we can have. All growth is about adaptation, and that *requires* struggle. So in some contexts, our goal should not necessarily be to reduce ALL frustration, but to figure out how to reduce all *unnecessary* frustration while simultaneously making the unavoidably frustrating parts more *tolerable* or at least make it clear that the frustrating parts will be *worth it.*

    So that vertical bar with happy face at the top and unhappy face at the bottom can be misleading if interpreted too literally. Watching a person struggling to learn and perform some of the most rewarding and advanced skills means watching a face that can appear to be in pain. Just watch any athlete or really ANY person working at the top of their advanced potential. It is a look of intense focus, comcentration, and struggle.

    But I think the real point you’re making is the same one I would make with just a tiny extra qualifier, or to paraphrase Steve Krug: “Don’t Make Me Think… About the WRONG things…”. If I am to struggle, it damn well better be on the result I really want (one I believe will be worth it) and NOT on figuring out how to tell you software/system how to make that result happen. For example, if I am trying to edit a video, I should be spending every cognitive resource I have on making meaningful edits that will best reflect my narrative or feeling the finished video will have. If your UI makes me think about HOW to make those edits happen, you are consuming my scarce resources that SHOULD have gone to something better. That said, one way to reduce frustration in a UI is to just *remove advanced capabilities* when it is often better to accept that not all frustration can or should be removed, and instead build a robust, fault-tolerant UX so that even when users DO struggle, they will see it as part of a natural and worthy journey.

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