What is a Product Journey Map and How to Build One?
A product journey map is a key part of the product development and design process as it serves as a peek into how your users see and experience your product or service.
In this article, we’ll cover what a product journey map is, why you need it, and how to build one.
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- Product journey maps are a representation of customer interactions with your product or service.
- It’s not the same as creating customer journey maps which are a representation of the customer journey and interactions with your business across each stage of the buying process.
- Journey mapping is important because it helps to identify customer pain points, gives you a feel of the customer’s state while using your product, and lets you uncover unique perspectives and potential solutions to improving it.
- There are 6 types of journey maps: current state, future state maps, day in the life, service blueprint, empty, and experience maps.
- You can build user journey maps using tools such as Miro, Lucidcharts, Smaply, etc.
What is a product journey map?
A product journey map is a blueprint of a user’s interactions within your product. It is a visual representation of every behavior and possible step or action the user takes while using your product.
It consists of everything a user does in the app. From signing up to activation, to how they experience and navigate your entire product and use specific features.
Product journey map vs customer journey map
A product map (also called a user journey map) covers all interactions a user has with your product and is used in UX and product development, while a customer journey map covers all interaction a user has with your brand and product across multiple channels, and platforms, even before the purchase, and is mostly used in marketing and sales.
With that being said, customer journey maps include your marketing efforts and MQLs and leads, while the former focuses on current users already using your product.
Before you can create a customer journey map, you have to decide on your company goal for the finished map. This will then determine which type of journey map you need to build to get the best results.
Here are the six types of journey maps product managers use to identify opportunities and create a better user experience.
Current state maps
Current state maps are the most common types of journey maps. They take a look at how your current users interact with your product right now. This map shows you what’s working today and what’s not in your product so you know what to improve.
Future state maps
Future state maps are an assumption or expectation of how users will navigate through and interact with your product in the future. This is built after the errors/blocks in your current state map have been fixed.
The future state map can also be used to set and track goals you hope to achieve with your improved product.
A service blueprint template tracks customers’ experience with employees and other parts of your company. This helps improve the interaction between the business and customers.
Day in the life
Day in the life maps is a bigger picture of your user as a whole person, not just as a user of your tool. This looks into the customer’s emotions, behaviors, activities, and other things that make them who they are.
While this type of journey mapping may not directly involve your product, it helps you get into your user personas’ heads and design products and experiences that fit into their lifestyles.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, in this case, the user. It’s an important skill for building products people love.
An empathy map, therefore, is a visual representation of how the user sees your product from their point of view. It doesn’t just map product interactions, it takes into consideration their feelings and struggles while using it. Empathy maps are built by running user research or interviews, and are usually divided into four parts to record:
- What the user says about your product and their experience with it
- What the user thinks when using the product.
- What they feel when using it
- What they do and actions/behaviors they display while using it
Each section gives you a better understanding of the user, what’s a problem to them, and exactly how to improve their experience.
A good or bad experience isn’t just a function of your product design or features. Every member of your product team is a part of the customer’s experience. So, experience maps are a visual slate of users’ experience with the different parts or touchpoints of your product during a given period.
To draw up an accurate experience map, you must first acknowledge the goal of the user then look at the paths taken to achieve that and their experience all through. Did it take longer than expected? How easy was it for them to get support? How many attempts did it take for them to get a task completed?
This particular map helps you discover and fix the hiccups in your customer journey and product flow.
Benefits of user and customer journey mapping?
Mapping customer experience or interaction with your product across the different stages of their journey can provide insights that could help with product development and improvement.
In other words, creating a customer journey map is a better way to develop products because it relies on how your user/customer base is experiencing your service. Here are a few other benefits.
Provide transparency across all teams involved in the development of your product
User and customer journey mapping look at the user’s interactions with your product (and brand as a whole), so the results you get from doing this can provide insight into how each team works at each stage of the customer’s journey. And also show you at what points improvements need to be made.
It helps cross-functional teams sync their actions of working towards the same business goal of improving customer experience. Instead of guessing/assuming, it shows the marketing team how their marketing efforts are received and which channels work best, the sales team gets insight into what kind of leads convert best, and the product team sees what parts of the product experience encourage users to move along their journey and where the friction points lie.
Drive product engagement and adoption
Customer journey mapping reveals what parts of your product work smoothly and which may be stalling users from progressing in their journey.
It could be a long and boring onboarding flow that keeps users from reaching activation so they leave. It could also be features that users are ignoring even though you know it’s important to their use case. Mapping how users use such a feature can show you how they experience it, and why they overlook it — it may be hard to find, they don’t see immediate value, hard to use, etc. This lets you know what needs to be done to increase product/feature engagement and adoption.
If you have a long-expected future, you can also use in-app announcements to notify users of new features.
Know which KPIs to track and why
There are a lot of KPIs or metrics to track in product marketing, so understanding how users see and experience your product can help you discover the most important ones to focus on right now. The customer journey mapping process helps you focus your efforts on what’s most important and remove friction points with in-app guidance.
A customer journey mapping examples could be of your users dropping off before reaching the activation stage. That could be your sign to focus on monitoring and improving onboarding flow and primary activation. Using a checklist, you can drive users to the activation point in their journey where they experience the value of the product.
How to create a product journey map?
Now you know what a product journey map is, and why you need it, the next thing is figuring out how to build one. The step-by-step process is what this section will cover.
#1 — Where to get data for your product journey map
The first thing to do is work out where the information you want to analyze will come from. You have two options:
Firstly, if you’re starting from scratch, the best way to get data is from user interviews.
This involves getting information directly from your users to understand how they interact with your product.
From user interviews, you can easily trace/map out how users see your product from their point of view. You can get a clear vision into their exact sentiments about several parts of the product and how easy or difficult it is for them to fulfill the desired action or achieve their goals.
The information you get here serves as a starting point. Since customer journeys aren’t static, your product map will need continuous adjustments as you move along.
Secondly, if you already have data from existing users you can:
- use product analytics tools to track in-app user behavior, user flow, friction points, etc
- Track user sentiments using in-app surveys like net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction score (CSAT), and customer effort score (CES).
- Ask your sales and customer success/support teams for recurring customer queries, bugs, and common words or quotes. These give you a better understanding of users’ pain points and needs.
Check out this video on The What and Why of Continuous Discovery from Teresa Torres, author, Speaker, and Product Management Coach at ProductTalk.
#2 — Set your target
By identifying what goal you hope to achieve from your user journey maps, it’ll be easier to create one.
- Do you want to improve the user’s experience of your product? You’ll need a user journey map that highlights your friction points and tracks user behavior of those who churned out of your product.
- Or do you want to improve a specific feature? An experience map of customer interaction with that feature will work best here to show how they experience it. From struggle points to the success areas.
- Looking to improve your product and make it more useful for your target user persona? A day in the life map of your target user can help you identify gaps and opportunities you can include in your product, because you’ll be able to see them as people, not just users of your product.
#3 — Define your user persona
Once you identify your goals and the type of user journey map you’ll be creating, the next step is to define your target user personas for the map.
By picking the necessary user personas on which your journey maps will focus, you’ll increase your chances of getting better results. So if your goal is to improve a specific feature, your target persona should be the users who use such feature.
Here’s an example of a Product Manager persona for Userpilot’s product adoption tool. It gives insight into their pain points, typical jobs to be done, the type of company they work for, and what they stand to gain from a tool like Userpilot.
#4 — Which journey stages are you mapping?
Your set objective will determine what stages of the user journey to map.
For example, if your goal is to improve onboarding flow and increase activation rates, your journey map will have to focus on only the primary onboarding stage of the user’s journey. This is because that’s the only part with influence on your goal.
#5 — Map out the key milestones in your product journey
Milestones are key points in the user’s journey through your product. They usually signify the end of a goal the user has achieved and are useful for tracking user progression.
Say your product is a meeting scheduling tool. There are several things your users have to do to achieve their goal.
- Sign up
- Sync calendar
- Create a meeting
- Share link.
If they don’t go through these steps they can’t experience your product’s benefit. But by completing the steps and achieving their goal of a scheduled meeting, they’ve reached one milestone in their journey.
Assigning milestones in your product journey map will give you insight into how the customer interacts with your product and if they’re advancing in their journey or not. Some examples of milestones include:
- Reaching the Aha moment
- Reaching the activation point
- Becoming an advanced user
Hint: translate those milestones into goals and track when users complete them using a product adoption tool like Userpilot
#6 — Add relevant touchpoints to your product journey map
Using the meeting scheduling tool example from above, a milestone is a goal achieved by successfully scheduling your meeting. While the touchpoints in this case are all the steps you take to accomplish this.
The milestone is the fully baked cake, while the touchpoints are all the steps that went into baking it.
Touchpoints are a necessary addition to your product journey map because they show you how users navigate them to achieve their goals. Onboarding checklists are a great way to get users to each touchpoint in your product.
There are many tools companies use to create journey maps. Here are the best 6:
- UXPressia: their main focus is helping you improve customer experiences with your product. Asides from being a dedicated product journey mapping tool with several templates, you can also use this tool for your company employee onboarding. They also offer integrations with Slack and the design tool Marvel.
- Miro: this is one of the popular product journey map tools. With access to many preloaded templates, an easy UI, and a dedicated focus on product education which makes it super easy for anyone to use.
- LucidChart: If you use Google sheets, you may want to go with this tool because LucidChart integrates smoothly with it.
- Conceptboard: this is a recommended tool for remote teams. With this tool, you and your team can easily collaborate on creating product journey maps regardless of location.
- Smaply: With Smaply you can run multiple product journey maps across multiple roles and personas. This helps you compare and contrast and easily discover pain points in the journey flow.
- FlowMapp: this is a UX tool that helps you visualize various types of flow maps such as site maps and product journey maps.
The success of your product lies in how much your users love and value it. If they see the value, they stay and you grow. If they don’t, they leave.
Product journey maps reveal how users experience your product. They show you the user’s pain point with your product and how you can fix that to improve their experience.
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