What is a User Journey?

Design / 29.06.16
Mark Vaesen

In the latest in my series covering the planning of your website project, we take a look at User Journeys.

What is a User Journey?

Type “what is a user journey” into Google, and the chances are you’ll see this broad definition:

A user journey is a series of steps (typically 4-12) which represent a scenario in which a user might interact with the thing you are designing. They can be used for 2 main things:

  • Demonstrating the way users currently interact with the service / website / product
  • Demonstrating the way users could interact with the service / website / product

User Journeys are used for a wide range of creative projects – not just websites – so the exact form they take and the way they’re used can look very different. But in this instance, a User Journey tells the story of how a customer interacts with your website. It captures the frustration, joy or other emotions customers experience that you can’t get from just raw data.

Some Good Examples

This famous User Journey from Lego tells the story, in steps, of an executive’s experience of visiting Lego’s headquarters. Icons have been used to show the executives emotions at each stage:

Lego's user journey experience graphic

This next Journey shows how a customer might interact with a health game app. You’ll notice in this example that “before” stages are also included, so we can see how the customer arrives, and where from. This helps put the whole project into a real-world context:

Another example of a user journey

And in this third example, the user’s emotions are indicated by a graph running the width of the diagram. Key points are plotted on the x-axis:

Broadband provider journey

Why do I need a User Journey for my website project?

There are several key benefits to creating User Journeys for your website project:

  • Helping to understand user behaviour – User Journeys can help you work out how your Personas (your typical users) are going to travel through the site to complete their goal
  • Beginning to form the basis for the site structure – once you understand the way the user interacts with the site, you can start to think about what sections and pages you need, and how they’ll link together
  • Creating a vision for the project – User Journeys are an excellent way to visually communicate the overall aims of the site with everyone involved in the project, from the MD to the designer to the copywriter

What should the User Journey look like?

As you can see from these examples, there’s no right or wrong way to present your User Journey…

Another user journey example showing objectives

Adam's user journey

…but you should try to include:

  • A picture of the Persona the User Journey relates to
  • A title that sums the User Journey up, e.g. “Making an enquiry about a new kitchen”
  • A series of briefly described steps
  • An illustration to reinforce what’s happening (if it helps)
  • Benefits to the user that happen along the way
  • Any functionality being used

Further reading

If you’re after more detail about How To Create a User Journey, check these out:

User Journeys – The Beginner’s Guide, by UX Review
Example UX docs and deliverables
All you need to know about Customer Journey Mapping
A Step By Step Guide to Building Customer Journey Maps