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When to Use Journey Mapping: Early Prototyping and Bird's Eye View Discussions



Journey mapping is a powerful tool in UX/UI design, helping teams visualize and understand user flows from a birds eye view. However, knowing when to use journey mapping can help to ensure it is a constructive exercise, rather than a box to tick off. In my experience journey mapping is most effective at two critical stages of product development: early prototyping and bird's eye view discussions.


Early prototyping is a crucial phase where ideas begin to take a tangible form. This stage is all about experimentation, rapid iteration, and laying the groundwork for a user-centered design. Here you should be sketching and whiteboard with a free hand to define user journeys and should have an open mind to new alternatives. Once nailed down and developed Customer Journey Maps are an essential tool to focus birds eye view discussions among stakeholders. Working from a visual reference helps teams get on the same page when discussing the intricacies of new features. Below are a few examples of how I use customer journey maps with clients.


Guiding Design Decisions: With a clear map of the user journey, design decisions can be made with greater confidence. Journey maps provide a reference point, ensuring that every element of the prototype aligns with the user’s needs and expectations.


Fostering Alignment: Early prototyping involves input from various stakeholders, including designers, developers, and product managers. Journey maps act as a shared visual tool that aligns everyone around a common understanding of the user journey, fostering better collaboration and communication.


Iterative Improvement: Journey maps make it easier to identify and implement iterative improvements. By mapping out each stage of the user journey, teams can quickly test, receive feedback, and refine their prototypes based on real user interactions and insights.

Bird’s eye view discussions occur at a higher strategic level, often involving stakeholders who oversee the broader direction and vision of a project. Journey mapping is equally beneficial in these discussions for several reasons:


Visualizing end to end Experiences: Journey maps provide a comprehensive view of the user’s experience, from initial awareness to post-use interactions. This holistic perspective is invaluable for high-level discussions, ensuring that all aspects of the user journey are considered and addressed.


Aligning Strategic Goals: For stakeholders, aligning the project’s strategic goals with user needs is crucial. Journey mapping helps bridge the gap between business objectives and user experience, ensuring that strategic decisions are informed by a deep understanding of the user journey.


Identifying Key Touchpoints and Metrics: Journey maps highlight critical touch points where users interact with the product or service. These touchpoints are essential for identifying key performance metrics and setting priorities that align with both user needs and business goals.


Enhancing Communication with Stakeholders: High-level stakeholders may not be involved in day-to-day design decisions but need to understand the user journey’s impact on overall strategy. Journey maps provide a clear, visual way to communicate complex user interactions, making it easier for stakeholders to grasp and support the project’s direction.

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