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Introduction to Experience Mapping in UX Design

Visualizing the entire end-to-end experience of users with experience mapping helps to spark fresh conversations and identifies where value exchange occurs between a product and its users. In this article, we will learn about experience map as an effective UX mapping method.

There are several techniques that are deployed among large product teams when building or improving a product. These techniques or methods typically help the team identify and understand the product and its goals, spot gaps for improvement and finally come up with solutions to common problems. One of the techniques that helps to visualize this is called an Experience map.

An experience map typically enables UX designers to make sense of the various moving parts and processes associated with a product. This includes building empathy and understanding with users in order to improve the user experience of a product.

UX mapping techniques are there to enable teams to remain aligned on one shared goal which is typically improving the user experience of their product by understanding the point of view, scope and focus area of the product.

According to the NNgroup, there are four types of mapping techniques and they include:

  • Empathy mapping
  • Experience mapping
  • Customer journey mapping
  • Service design mapping

experience map

The four types of UX mapping techniques/methods by NNgroup

These four mapping methods make up the fundamentals of UX mapping and therefore it’s important to know when and how to deploy them effectively.

Empathy mapping:

An empathy map is a UX mapping tool and method that helps UX designers understand the mindset of users. It primarily focuses on the visual representation of what users say, think, do, or feel as it relates to their expectations, needs and wants.

Empathy mapping early in the design process allows for deeper understanding of your user persona. It can be a valuable part of your user research activities and help to inform design decisions among UX teams when building a new product.

Experience mapping:

An experience map is a UX mapping tool or method that visualizes an entire end-to-end experience that a customer person goes through in order to accomplish a goal. It helps you understand the current experience of your product without a full prototype yet. Think reimagination. This experience is independent of a specific business or product.

It’s used for understanding general human behavior (as opposed to a customer journey map, which is more specific and focused on specific steps and stages of the journey).

Customer journey mapping:

A customer journey map is a visual representation of all the actions a user takes when interacting with your product. They are generally focused on illustrating the process of a user achieving a certain goal in a specific timeline.

The idea behind it is to deconstruct the experience of your users into smaller specific steps to help product teams better empathize with the end-user when creating or redesigning a product. This method helps ux designers to spot specific customer journey touchpoints that can cause friction or create delight customers.

Service blueprint mapping:

A service design blueprint map is a UX mapping tool that helps to visualize the relationship between the (people and users) in an organization in order to optimize how a business or product delivers its user experience. It focuses on helping organizations deliver the best experience possible to their employees and how this is directly tied to touchpoints in a specific customer journey.

All of these methods are important and should be used at different stages of your process which will largely depend on the design direction your team will go with inorder to achieve a delightful user experience.

What is an Experience map?

An experience map is a UX mapping tool that visualizes an entire end-to-end experience that a customer person goes through in order to accomplish a goal. It provides a visual representation of the touchpoints customer goes through, their needs, actions and perceptions as they do it. 

Experience map helps designers to gain more context user’s experiences with their product and, therefore, adapt the design to fit them better.

An experience map shows the journey a customer goes through while experiencing a product or service. It also shows the relationship between a business and its customer journey. Mapping the experience from a customer perspective helps businesses identify strategic opportunities, customer pain-points and design innovative solutions.

experience map

An example of an Experience map using pregnancy by NNgroup

What are customer experience maps used for?

Customer experience maps offer a general perspective on human behavior at different phases and they are; the different design stages, the actions the users need to take, the thought behind every user action and the emotions associated with the final outcome. This generally leads to a full understanding of product experience from the users point of view.

Significance of experience mapping over other methods

An experience map helps to visualize customer’s processes, needs, and perceptions as they take steps to achieve their goals and satisfy their needs. You can reimagine and map the user experience of your product while it is still an idea from user interactions, to touchpoints to see how they will interact with the product.

This further helps you understand their behaviors while you empathize with the users and tailor your product to solve their problems and meet their specific needs.

When do you need an experience map?

Experience maps are typically used before you start designing a product. This technique enables businesses to understand how potential users solve their problems without the product. You can spot opportunities to improve your design solution and solve user pain points. 

For example, if you are going to design a telemedicine web app, you may first create an experience map to understand how individuals go about booking consultations at healthcare facilities. This map will be product agnostic as it gives you a broad idea of their overall experience (delight and pain points). Once the most important user type is established, you can come up with a design solution that will meet user goals, address their needs and eliminate friction.

How to create a user experience map

The process of creating an experience map typically involves:

1. Scope

2. Experience mapping

3. Improving

4. Maintenance

Define user persona

Conduct research

Plan who and how are going to solve the problems.

Review and revisit experience map on a regular basis

Define your goals with the project

Identify touchpoints and phases

Implement the solutions

Determine points of friction

This overview helps us to spot the necessary steps needed to create an effective user experience map and they include:

  1. Create a persona
  2. Conduct user research
  3. Define the journey phases
  4. Define customer interactions
  5. Identify points of friction
  6. Resolve issues

1. Create a persona

Creating a user persona is among the first steps you need to take when designing an experience map. Personas help you identify who your most important users are, their goals, what they need and also how they communicate and interact with your product or service across all necessary channels and touchpoints.

According to the NNgroup, persona is a fictional, yet realistic, description of a typical or target user of the product. A persona is an archetype instead of an actual living human, but personas should be described as if they were real people.

The description should be thorough, including details about the person’s needs, concerns, and goals, as well as background information such as age, gender, behaviors, and occupation. This focus on a singular individual—or a small set of individuals, if using multiple personas—fosters empathy for the specific users we are designing for, and helps us break away from the attempt to design for everyone. Your user persona should grow and evolve as your product grows.

Most of the time you’ll already know who your target user is. However, if that’s not the case, to gather enough information about your user persona start by conducting user research.

2. Conduct user research

This step is essentially the foundation of your experience map. Your map can’t just be based on assumptions, you need to get real data about who your users are, what are their expectations and behavioral patterns and how they interact with your product. 

Conduct user research to find it all out and get to know your target persona. This can include user interviews, surveys, usability tests and other research methods available to you.

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3. Define your customer phases

User experience maps are typically organized in phases. Each customer phase will help you visualize the major goal of your customer’s on their product journey. The technique illustrates your customer’s motives and goals behind their current journey.

This step helps visualize the process from your user’s consideration phase all the way to actually buying your product or services. It helps define how, when, and where your customer discovers your product, where they research your product or services, where they choose you over competitors, make purchases and potentially come back. This approach creates a holistic relationship between the user and their entire product experience.

4. Define customer interaction

Identify and define your customer interaction (from start to finish) by describing the touchpoints your customer goes through when interacting with your product or service. Each touchpoint helps to add to their entire user experience.

Examples of common touch points may include: signing up for a newsletter, creating a profile on an app, visiting a website, viewing ratings and reviews, contacting support, and/or buying a product. Visualize and understand how each touchpoint in a larger context will help you optimize every step of your customer journey and design better experiences by anticipating users’ needs and pain points.

5. Identify points of friction

Once you understand your user type (persona), their goals, and their customer journey that leads to a clear pathway for them to achieve their goals and meet their needs, it is important to zoom out and look for opportunities where you can spot potential problem areas. Viewing your entire customer’s experience through this lens helps you to further understand your users behaviors and where they could face potential problems.

Go through each phase of the user experience map with your design team and identify areas of friction as well as the room for improvement in the entire product. 

6. Resolve issues

Once you and your team have identified points of friction, come up with a step by step action plan to resolve this friction with a research backed design solution. Go back to your experience map throughout the whole design process to stay aligned with your goals and remain user-centered.

5 effective ways to use an experience map

experience map

Here are 5 great reasons to use an experience map:

  • An experience map helps you see the big picture of your customer’s journey to further understand their needs and pain points.
  • It makes collaboration between the product development team (ux designers, developers, and product managers) easier, more focused and effective.
  • It facilitates desired outcomes by highlighting and minimizing negative customer experiences.
  • An experience map identifies the reasons for churn, addressing them and creating the opportunity to onboard users again. 
  • It allows businesses to prioritize actions in their experience map strategy and product timeline.

Understand users with experience mapping

Experience mapping is a great way to further understand your users, how they interact with your product and imagining their entire experience before you get into the design process. The idea behind creating an experience map is to spark conversation among teams about user types while understanding their shared goals and motivations.

The insights gotten from this technique when visualized using a map can be used by the UX design team, organization, or stakeholders to communicate and understand how user interacts with the product. Experience map can also become the basis for decision making during the UX design process. 

To ensure quality user research in the process of creating your experience map, register for your free account at UXtweak and use our various tools to get to know your users better!

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