5 Types of Journey Maps and when to use them

Summary: When conducting Customer Journey Mapping, you have five options for representing the journey. The choice depends on your intention for the mapping process, business goals for the journey effort, and how much impact must be generated with your Journey Map. Understanding the five types of Journey Maps is critical in determining which will best map your goals and intentions.

How to represent Journey Map data

Journey Mapping is a UX process for visually documenting how your customer or user moves across an experience over time. It involves understanding defects in the customer experience and highlighting opportunities for healing those breakpoints in channel and touchpoint interaction. 

When representing Journey Maps, you have a choice about how to represent the data. This choice is based on a number of subjective factors. At Experience Dynamics, we have found that these factors have less to do with the UX process and more to do with how Journey Mapping is used. Journey Mapping allows for a new level of insight and collaboration to occur across departments and organizational silos. That is the best-case use of Journey Maps–as a strategic tool for organizational insight and transformation. The more tactical use of Journey Maps is to quickly determine how an Interaction Design (UX Design) should align with customer needs and address broken aspects of their journey. 

Choosing a Journey Map type comes down to how engaged your stakeholders actually are, how much time you have to socialize the Journey Map, and what the priorities are for doing the Journey Map in the first place. For example, choose a Future state journey if you wish to provide better Customer Experience in a COVID-19 world. This is especially true as you imagine new rules and possibilities based on deficits in the experience you serve today.  Let’s take a look at the different Journey Mapping options.

The 5 types of Journey Maps 

  1. Current state: Current state journey maps follow the experience as it exists today. They detail how a customer interacts with the service, product, or experience. This, in turn, illuminates areas of need, strength, and opportunity. This is the most common type of journey map– but not the most strategic from an ROI perspective. 
  2. Future state: Future state journey maps document a user’s ideal or “dream” scenario. They build on current state maps but offer a higher level of innovation opportunity since they are free of existing constraints. We recommend that you do future state maps with current state maps or build on existing knowledge from journey mapping efforts. Future state journey maps are critical in UX/CX efforts in the rapidly changing world we and our customers live in. 
  3. Strategic situation: Strategic journey maps show you the ‘big picture’ of a customer’s goals, experience, and dreams. It provides Agile teams a context for where the UX/CX is moving directionally. In Agile terms, this represents a Saga (Epics and User Stories can be defined based on Saga views). Sagas are important for context. Sometimes, User Stories (usage scenarios) have too much detail or lose focus of the overall mission of a user’s journey with the product, service, or experience. 
  4. Tactical situation: Tactical journey maps provide the Agile collection of story (Epic) level views. This day-in-the-life type of journey map can zoom in on a particular aspect of an experience, such as user registration to a service, mobile app onboarding, or unboxing (the out-of-the-box experience). 
  5. Persona-based: Persona journey maps show a journey map with the presence of the persona. Which user role is struggling most with this breakpoint in this channel? You can make Persona journey maps for each persona to represent their individual journeys. 

See Use this Vital ROI Hack to Improve Your Design Sprints

How to Choose the Right Journey Map for Your Project

Choosing the right Journey map will determine how much:

  1. Organizational impact you are making
  2. How well you can improve your UX/CX with this potentially powerful design decision-making tool

First, decide what impact you need (or if you are a consultant, what impact you can have) to have with your particular project. At Experience Dynamics, we once spent a week creating persona-based Journey Maps to discover the UX Designer was the only one on the client product team interested in reading them. In this case, a single Current state journey map would have sufficed. You must factor the degree of team engagement and the team’s time or resources to do user research or host a workshop into your choice of Journey Map type.

Next, factor in time and resources for creating an impactful Journey Map. Have you made the business case in your organization for Journey Mapping? Is there a willingness to do User research vital to gaining customer insights? Does the organization need education, or is your organizational maturity such that you can deliberately create a Tactical situation map that all will embrace?

Remember that choosing a Journey Map type necessarily involves how you create the map. Many UX Designers and Researchers see Journey Maps as a tactical deliverable created privately and shared publicly. Instead, shifting to creating it with your wider organization and allowing them to own the process and deliverable will allow you to conduct more strategic map types, namely Strategic situation and Future state journey maps.  

Finally, include these non-negotiables for increased Journey Mapping success.

Journey Mapping ROI should be a key priority for any team using this tool. In a recent Experience Dynamics client project, the client asked at the end that we add Journey Maps to the deliverable of a user research study. The idea was to add on or use Journey Mapping as a visual. The idea that Journey Maps are a document, pretty illustrations, or static “UX deliverables” that can be added to a project “just because” must end.

To get the most from Journey Mapping, it is imperative that you:

1. Bring User Research to the Journey Mapping process. Journey maps lacking evidence are flimsy and weak. They represent making decisions without evidence. The risks of being wrong in your assumptions and guesses are too high. Stop gambling, do user research. 

2. Involve Stakeholders in Journey Mapping. Journey maps are nice to look at, but the more important piece is the conversations and shared viewpoints that stakeholders and cross-department teams have. The insights and interpretations from different organizational roles and vantage points can be more important than the actual map itself. 

3. Measure the progress and success of the Journey Mapping process as well as the CX/UX. Measuring your organizational success with a Journey Mapping workshop and effort is key. The more success you have as an organization with this tool, the more leverage you can get from it. In addition, make sure you are measuring how your customers are experiencing the improved journeys you create. 

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