User Journeys

User Journeys

There’s some talk out there about this thing called “User Journeys.” A user journey is defined as the experience that a person has when utilizing/interacting with something – typically software or a website’s design.

In more applicable terms, user journeys tell the story of an individual’s relationship with your organization over time, and across channels. Why are we talking about them? Because the process of mapping out a user journey can help you figure out how you fit into the lives of your users and identify gaps that are troublesome or disjointed in the user experience.

Some quick Google sleuthing will point you to various methods for developing a user journey. But the two primary options are:

Traditionally, ThinkShout has taken the analytical approach and we let the data guide much of our audience work. It’s safe to say that the majority of the time, this is sufficient for the needs of most organizations. However, some projects require additional research. There are instances in which you need to determine not only how people are interacting with your website as it stands today, but you might want to know how you could better serve your audiences and what new content you need to curate. You might need users to answer questions like: What would be helpful? What do you find frustrating? What were you looking for when you needed help? How could we improve to be the resource you turn to when you need it most?

As much as it pains me to say this (being the data-geek that I am), the answers to these question are not solely in the analytics. Most recently, we sought the answers to questions like this by conducting a series of phone interviews with site users.

The Interview Process

While interviewing may come naturally to the likes of Terry Gross, for many of us, it’s an activity that requires a learned, delicate approach. Your phrasing and timing are hugely important, and it helps to be a natural listener. Sometimes, leaving space or an awkward silence for the interviewee to continue talking is the right thing to do.

ThinkShout spoke with an expert who gave us some pointers on how to phrase questions and assemble a matrix to guide the interview process itself. Using a guide is essential, as you’ll want to aim for consistency in your delivery/phrasing in each interview. But while consistency is important, you need to be open to taking the conversation in the direction the respondent takes you as well.

Your Matrix should be divided by:

For example, a research objective might be “unmet needs/opportunities.” A research question might be, “Does the respondent feel there is something missing in terms of resources or support on the site?” To make this a survey question (the one you actually ask the respondent), we’d phrase it as, “What would have been helpful to have early in your experience that was not available to you?”

You’ll want to interview several people from your target audiences to ensure there is sufficient representation. Generally, a small sample size is at about 8 interviews; a large sample would be 16.

After about 4-5 interviews, consistencies and common needs from your audience should start to surface, and you’ll develop a complete view of what their experience has been as well as what they’d like it to be.

Developing the Journeys

User journeys weave together the actions visitors to your site take and shows the levels of engagement they have; in some cases (if you’re getting real fancy) they also include empathy maps and how they are feeling at each stage.

In one of our most recent projects, we wanted to show the multitude of ways in which a user engages with an organization, and their needs at each stage of the lifecycle with said organization. This also helped to develop the user personas, which are fictional representations of a type of user likely to visit the site.


The first of several drafts of a Journey Map

Never has the non-linear path of an online user been more apparent than when we went through this exercise. In reality, there are countless ways someone could interact with your organization. We chose to focus our energies on the most common ones that surfaced in our interviews.

Then, we polished it up and incorporated the colors, fonts, and style tiles from the creative direction we had for the project.

Style tiles are like looking at swatches of paint for your house – it gives you and your stakeholders a good idea of what might go well together, but until you try it on your walls, might be hard to make a definitive choice.

By incorporating these colors into the user journey map, it helped solidify the creative direction for the site. We used certain colors for specific actions/stages in the journeys, and showed potential pathways with dotted lines, or a circle to connect various stages together. As a bonus, the designs of the journey maps hinted at what infographics might looks like if we were to take that path and design those for the organization as well.

userjourneys2.pngFinal version of Journey Map

Key Takeaways

Through the interview and journey mapping process, we learned about resources outside of the website in question that were of use to our target audience. We were directed to other sites users found helpful or features that were valuable to them, which subsequently gave us ideas for how we could improve the site. We learned about their frustrations, but also gleaned specific information they felt would be helpful- details that don’t always come through in the analytics – especially when that content doesn’t exist yet on a site.

If you do decide to go this route and conduct interviews, a few items of note:

As you search for resources and info on user journeys, check out some blogs and podcasts with Kim Goodwin - she knows her stuff! And if you have questions about how we can help you develop your user journey, contact us - we want to set you up for success and give you the tools you need to do so. Let us know how we can make it happen for you!

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