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UX Mapping: How to Create Effective Experience Maps

What is UX mapping, and why is it important? Learn all you need to know about experience mapping with a step-by-step process to create quality maps.

12 min read

One of the biggest challenges in the design of any product or service is getting the right understanding of the audience, their goals, and their needs. UI/UX designers always need to ensure that their designs are user-centered, thus making the lives of the audience easier. There is, however, a lot of effort needed to get this understanding. From market surveys and user research to usability testing and focus groups, designers put in a lot of effort to create useful, usable, and helpful products. One way to understand the motivations and needs of the users is to create visualizations of their entire experience. This is where user experience maps come into play.

UX mapping helps in visualizing the entire journey that the users take when interacting with a product, whether in the digital or physical environment. User experience mapping not only helps in understanding the perspective of the audience but also creates a clear picture in the minds of designers, communication specialists, and product development teams. The insights obtained from this method leave a huge impact on the final product or service design. It will not be wrong to say that creating a UX map is one of the most significant steps in any design project. The practice of mapping user experience is adopted by the best UX design service providers to add value to a design.

User Experience Treasure Map (Peter Morville on Flickr)

In this article, we introduce the concept of a user experience map, along with different mapping methods that designers need to be aware of. Toward the end of this article, we present a step-by-step method about how to build an experience map.

  1. UX mapping definition
  2. UX mapping methods
  3. Steps to create your own experience map

Read along as we discuss this interesting and essential topic for modern UX design.

UX Mapping Definition

What does it mean by mapping UX? Is there a standard user experience map definition? How does one create a UX map? These are all important questions, particularly for students of design and aspiring UI/UX designers. It is essential for designers to understand the basics of UX mapping before starting design projects. Whether you’re working as a freelance designer or in a UI/UX design agency, UX mapping is a process that you’ll find useful for both individual and team projects.

The primary goal of UX mapping is to get a complete picture of the ways in which users interact with a product or service. With the help of a UX map, designers are able to create a vivid picture of all interactions, thus understanding the design in a real-world context. This not only helps in prioritizing the needs of users but also brings their pain points to the front. UX maps, when backed by good research practices, can significantly improve the design process as well as the quality of the end product.

Mapping User Experience (Dribble)

The importance of UX mapping can be understood by reflecting on the goal of any design: to meet the needs of users. This user-centered approach of any design practice calls for a method that can provide insights into the real-world experiences of the audience. This is exactly what a user experience map aims to achieve. It is also important to note that creating a UX map is not free of challenges. However, the rewards of this strategy outweigh the challenges both in the short and long term.

UX Mapping Methods

There are various UX mapping methods that a designer can use to create better products and services. The choice of a method depends on the nature of the design, the target audience, and the goals of the product, as well as the organization. It is also important to consider the essential UX design principles when selecting a UX mapping method.

Sometimes designers need to create more than one map to get a better understanding of the goals and motivation of users. Since all maps have certain defining characteristics and specific objectives, it is important to choose the method or combination of methods that can provide a comprehensive idea about the users, their journey, and interaction with the design.

UX Mapping Methods

Major types of UX mapping methods are as follows.

1. Empathy mapping

Empathy map, as the name indicates, is the best way to develop empathy for the audience. This map is extremely useful when the emotions and perceptions of the users need specific consideration. The standard way to create an empathy map is to divide it into four quadrants: says, feels, thinks, and does. In all these quadrants, specific details about the users are inserted.

The collective results of the users’ saying, feelings, thoughts, and actions is an empathy map. This map gives a holistic view of how the users interact — or will interact — with a design. This then helps in understanding their goals, motivations, and pain points in a clear way.

The Four Quadrants of an Empathy Map (StoryboardThat)

2. Customer journey mapping

In UX design, a customer experience map creates a chronological representation of all touchpoints when the users interact with a product or service. The customer journey map — also referred to as the UX journey map — visualizes the interactions as a step-by-step process. Starting from the very first moment when the users learn about a product up until the point when they’ve accomplished their desired tasks, the UX design customer journey covers all the phases of interaction. This map is important to address the problems with conversion rates and other related marketing concerns, particularly in the digital environment.

3. Scenario mapping

Scenario mapping is similar to customer journey mapping in some respects. However, this type of map treats specific scenarios of a user’s interaction instead of the entire journey. This type of mapping plays a crucial role in redesign projects where the aim is to address a specific touchpoint where the design is not performing as expected.

Brainstorming in Scenario Mapping (IBM)

In case of limited resources, such as time and personnel, scenario maps can provide good direction in making quick decisions. These are also important in fixing errors once a design has been launched.

4. Experience mapping

Experience map takes a holistic and agnostic approach in UX design. This map is not specific to any product or service. Instead, when creating an experience map, UI/UX designers focus solely on the target audience. The steps that users take to achieve a certain goal, the way they feel, and the hurdles they face form an important part of this mapping method. Experience maps are excellent tools to understand the behaviors and expectations of users. Since these maps are not focused on a particular product, these can be created at the start of a design project, thus getting valuable insights and good directions for the final product.

5. Service blueprinting

Service blueprinting, as the name suggests, is focused more on the way a service is provided to the target audience. This type of map, also known as a UX service map, is important for design organizations and agencies to identify and rectify their inner processes. Service blueprinting creates a chronological representation of what happens inside the organization, from customer support to backend processes, when a user interacts with a product, whether in the digital or physical environment. It can be considered as an internal checklist for a design team that can greatly enhance the quality of the final product.

Steps to Create Your Own Experience Map

An experience map is a powerful UX mapping tool. The students of design or aspiring designers need to understand the process of creating a good experience map as this is where all successful projects begin. As mentioned above, an experience map paints a big picture of the users’ journey when they interact with a product or service. Additionally, since this map is not created for a specific design, various internal biases and limitations of design do not affect the process of creating an experience map. One of the most important aspects of a successful UX design strategy is to have a thorough understanding of the users, and this is where experience maps come into play.

UI/UX designers can follow a step-by-step process to create experience maps that can provide quality information about the attitudes, objectives, and motivations of the target audience.

How to Create an Experience Map

1. Conduct audience analysis

The first step in understanding the behavior of users is to conduct a comprehensive audience analysis. Audience analysis is an essential part of any UX design project as it helps in highlighting the pain points and needs of users. The end goal of audience analysis for the purpose of UX mapping is to identify who the users are, how many audience groups are there, and which users belong to which groups. This helps in categorizing and prioritizing the target audience, keeping the goals of the product or service in mind.

2. Create user personas

Once different groups of the audience are identified, it is important to dive deeper. This is where creating user personas comes in handy. User personas give a focused view of the motivations and needs of users. These are remarkable tools in understanding why the audience needs a particular type of product or service. Not only this, but user personas also highlight the pain points, thus giving valuable information to designers about the output they should aim to achieve.

3. Define user scenarios and interactions

For UX experience maps, it is critical to understand the context in which the audience interacts with a design. This is where scenarios and interactions play an important role. For example, when designing a GPS navigation app, a designer needs to consider that the target audience may interact with the app while driving. This means that the experience has to be molded in a way that aids the use of the app while driving. This step makes sure that the users get a better experience while interacting with the design.

4. Divide user journey into stages

To get a closer look at different aspects of a design, UI/UX professionals then proceed to divide the user journey into phases or stages. This step gives a holistic view of the user experience and makes sure that all their major concerns are highlighted. Remember, the aim of an experience map is not to give a final product but to give a complete understanding of the ways the audience interacts with a design. The stages of the user journey, therefore, help in breaking down the entire experience, thus ensuring that all stages get due consideration.

Typical Stages of User Experience Journey (Evaluate My CX)

5. Identify key points of interaction

Throughout the experience, the audience interacts with a product or service in various ways. To make every interaction meaningful and helpful, UI/UX designers make sure to identify the key touchpoints. For example, when booking a flight with a mobile application, the users go through a series of meaningful interactions. If one of these elements, such as the comparison of prices, is left out, the overall experience gets impacted. Understanding the key points of interaction is a time-consuming and iterative process. It is, therefore, critical to leave a good amount of time for this step. These touchpoints hold great importance both in the physical and digital environments.

6. Conduct user research

After conducting all the internal research, the next step is to directly communicate with the users. This is one of the most important steps as it helps in getting rid of the internal biases and brings the perspective of users into the design process. The aim of this step is to hear the users out and understand their concerns. Several techniques can be used for user research, depending on the purpose of the project. For example, if the idea is to revamp an existing design, usability testing can prove helpful. If, however, the project focuses on creating an entirely new design and a prototype is not there to be tested, focus groups and surveys can be used to conduct research.

7. Map out the user experience

Once all the internal and external research steps are completed, the final task for a UI/UX designer is to visualize the user experience. This is where a map is created by bringing all the findings together. The aim of this map is to understand the overall experience of the users in minimum time. When creating a map, designers must always keep an eye on the goals of the organization.

User Experience Map Example (FAVPNG)

Remember that the needs of users always take priority. However, in order for the product to be successful, it needs to have some monetary value as well. This is why learning from the competitors is also important.

Conclusion

UX mapping is one of the most important concepts for professional and aspiring designers alike. In order to get a thorough understanding of the audience groups and their goals, creating UX maps is imperative. It must be noted that no design is successful without giving due consideration to the target audience. The touchpoints of users, their concerns about a design, and their emotions take center stage in any design project. This is what UX maps help in accomplishing.

Designers can add great value to their projects with a good understanding of different types of mapping methods and expertise in UX mapping tools. It is important to focus on the organization’s goals before selecting a mapping method. This is because UX maps are created with both short and long-term objectives in mind. A good understanding of the organization’s goals can help in directing design projects in the right direction.