Designing a Journey Map? Consider These Tips

What does it feel like for your customers to interact with your business? Building a customer journey map is the best way to answer that question and build empathy with their experience. Your map can also act as a rallying point for your team or organization, creating a shared vision of the experience you’re all working together to create.

While journey maps undoubtedly provide value, it’s not uncommon to feel a little stumped on where to start or how to make an effective one. To help you overcome any hesitation, IDEO Partner and Managing Director Melanie Bell-Mayeda has a few pieces of advice for building great journey maps. Listen to our podcast episode with Melanie for more advice. When you’re ready to implement your journey map and begin designing your service experience, check out our Human-Centered Service Design course for more expert guidance from Melanie.

Start with what you’ve got

Whether it's an existing articulation of a customer experience or an old journey map that’s since become outdated, there’s likely some information to start from. Collect everything you can find to ground yourself in what you know about the customer experience so far.

Look beyond your business

The customer journey extends beyond direct interaction with your company. “Think about your users and the moments where they're touching you, but also the things that happen before, the context from which they're coming, and also what happens after,” Melanie says.

Keep early iterations simple

A journey map doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. In the beginning, it’s especially helpful to start with something simple to clarify the big picture. You can add more detail later. If you’re starting with a complex map, Melanie says “the key is to distill it down to what matters most to your organization in delivering for your user.”

Build it up over time

Now that you’ve distilled your customer journey into a simple map, use it as a conversation starter to gather more information. In a project with a healthcare company, Melanie’s team used a simple linear customer map to conduct mini workshops internally, gut-check their assumptions, and ask people questions—Who else should we be thinking about? What other questions should we be asking? “You're growing to a large map, as opposed to trying to start there,” she says.

Hold it loosely

A customer journey map should be a dynamic, living document—not static. Expect that it will change over time as your business grows and your customers’ needs shift. Don’t file it away and call it final. Consider posting it up in a public place, leaving sticky notes and pens nearby, and inviting people to add questions and insights over time.

Nominate a caretaker

Often the customer journey map is held by a chief innovation officer, head of design and innovation, or the design research team. Whoever owns it should have the authority and credibility to have the organization revisit it when necessary. “The holding is less of locking it down and much more of keeping it fresh and top of mind and inviting people in the organization to re-engage in it,” Melanie says.

Use it as a starting point

A journey map is a tool that unlocks, but it’s not the final deliverable in your service design process. It’s a treasure map giving you a sense of where to start, but you have to dig through and find the path.

“It’s not that you get your journey map and you're all done,” Melanie says. “It’s a really important starting point, and it allows you to think through the human, physical, and digital interactions that are happening over time.”

Use your journey map to push your thinking and ask yourself: What could we do better? What's broken? How has the context for our user changed? What might we deliver differently?


Learn more from Melanie in IDEO U’s Human-Centered Service Design 5-week course, where she takes you through lessons based on her work with global clients at IDEO.

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