Back to Blog
Marta Costa

9 minutes read

How to create a user journey map (with quick guide)

Marta Costa

If you are reading this, chances are that you are working on an existing product or planning to launch a new one. I’m sure that providing a bad experience is not part of your plans. But the truth is we’ve all faced frustrations with digital products and services in our daily lives: Why is it so complicated to open a new bank account? And why is it so nerve-racking to buy plane tickets online?

As product complexity increases, the companies expand and silos start to emerge. When teams have different responsibilities, certain elements might end up being overlooked, which, unfortunately, gets reflected in the user experience

A user journey is a great tool to offer visibility and create alignment in a format that puts the user at the center of the development process. Whether you are a designer, researcher, product owner, manager, or someone worried about your product experience, this article is for you. I will talk about the basics of user journeys and how you can use them to improve your product’s experience. As a bonus, you will be able to download a quick guide to help you create your next user journey.

How to create a User journey map

What is a user journey?

A user journey is a visualization of the end-to-end set of interactions that a person goes through to accomplish a particular goal when using a product, service, or system. It typically contains elements such as the user’s thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. People use it to better understand user needs and pain points and identify improvement opportunities.

If we look at the example below, we see Sarah’s journey in signing up for phone and internet service for her new home. The journey starts when Sarah is planning her home move and realizes she needs to choose from an internet service provider. She goes through the process of analyzing offers, purchasing, and finally having the service installed.

The most interesting part of user journeys is how they show the user’s emotional journey going through the different phases. This highlights both the positive and negative points of the experience. Another particularity is that it can include events that occur before and after the contact with your product or service. That can be incredibly helpful in understanding your users’ motivations for using your product.

Do I need a user journey?

Understanding your users can be challenging. While it’s impossible to have a perfect prediction of your user’s next steps, it’s very valuable to keep track of how users are experiencing your product. If you are still wondering if a user journey can be useful for your project, here are the main advantages:

Uncovering gaps and pain points

Journeys help to identify all touchpoints the user has with a product or service and uncover paths or interactions that were not planned for. Having this complete view of the user experience makes it easier to identify areas of friction. The earlier you identify these issues, the quicker you can tackle them and potentially improve your customer retention rate.

Making user-centered decisions

Instead of discussing features, user journeys can be a good way to get teams together to discuss the customer and refocus on their needs. Having a clear understanding of the user journey helps the teams. This leads to making decisions that prioritize users’ needs, resulting in more valuable product features.

Creating alignment

A visual representation of the user journey provides a powerful format. This format can be easily shared and understood by cross-department teams and stakeholders. This will help break silos between different teams and guarantee a shared understanding of the user experience.

Creating a user journey

Preparation is key

Before starting to work on your journey, reflect on what type of journey your project needs and, most importantly, plan what you expect to get from it. Here are some important steps to plan a successful user journey:

Have a clear goal: Your journey must have a clear purpose. It will prevent you from spending a lot of time and effort building a user journey that will later be forgotten and unused. Answering the following questions might help to define how you build your journey:

  • Which business goal will this journey map support? 
  • Who will use it?
  • How will it be shared?

Define the type of journey you need: A journey could represent a user’s current experience with a product or service or the ideal experience the user will have. The main goal of a current-state journey is to understand the needs of existing customers, identify gaps, diagnose issues, and identify solutions.

We will use a future-state journey to conceive new experiences. Additionally, we will create a shared vision of how to provide a new service or cater to a new customer segment. If you plan to improve an existing product, it can be beneficial to start with a current experience to identify pain points. Then, reflect and ideate a future experience.

Define the scope: Journeys can provide different zoom levels of the user experience. To illustrate, let’s take an example of a health clinic. “Being a customer of a health clinic” would center around the overall customer relationship with the company.

Taking it a step further, “Signing up for an insurance plan” focuses on a specific user goal. The necessary interactions to accomplish it are also addressed. Lastly, the journey can delve into a particular interaction. For example, “chatting online with an assistant” or “searching for plans on the website,” providing intricate details of a specific point of contact with the company.

Prioritize personas and scenarios: Each map should have one persona and scenario. That will help uncover unexpected situations and compare how one journey can differ between different users.

You must list and prioritize the scenarios you must cover and identify the users who will be represented. If you don’t know where to start, consider looking for a persona or segment with the biggest growth potential. Alternatively, search for one with a strong influence in the market.

Create a team: It’s crucial to define how different roles will collaborate in making the journey. It’s necessary to have a person or a team to drive the journey activities. These activities usually include roles like management, design, and research. To fully understand the end-to-end process it is essential to establish a cross-functional team containing professionals from various domains. Such as product management, marketing, sales, and customer support, among others.

This approach ensures that it shares valuable insights, facilitating and driving the necessary improvements. Consider also involving decision-making stakeholders like senior management and executives to help promote your journey. 

Gather the data

Once you have a clear understanding of what is needed, it’s time to collect the data. User journeys should be based on truth and faithful representations of the user experience, especially when discussing current-state journeys. Here are some ways you can collect data for your user journey:

Internal research: I consider it to be very useful to begin by doing internal research. Many companies often possess a lot of user data that is not centralized, so collecting insights from various sources within a company—senior stakeholders, customer support, marketing, and sales would be helpful.

Previous surveys, customer support logs, feedback from direct sales, or market research can help understand the main issues. Synthesize your findings and identify the gaps you need to uncover.

Prepare workshops: Bringing your cross-functional team to co-create your journey can be a great way to cross insights and get buy-in. Invite them to walk in the user’s shoes and create a draft hypothesis-based map.

This map will be based on internal knowledge from your stakeholders, so take into consideration that it might be close or far from reality. Use it to discover the biggest assumptions and uncertainties and drive what you need to validate with external user research. 

External research: This is the most important step, no matter what type of journey you need. Gathering data directly from your users will help you bring everything together on your user journey. When planning user research, focus on qualitative methods like user interviews, observations, or contextual inquiry to achieve the best insights.

Use the data you collected to validate previous assumptions. Bring together your stakeholders to share your findings, identify the high and low points of the journey, and prioritize opportunities so you and your team can focus on the critical areas. 

Visualizing the user journey

Don’t mind the visual aspect of your journey too much at first. Instead, focus on your goals and the best way to represent the different interactions of the user. That said, there are key elements common to the different types of user journeys that you should take into consideration. If you plan to run a workshop to co-create the journey, introduce these elements to your team and use them during the session:

  • Persona: The user experiencing the defined scenario. Providing a detailed description of your persona and its defining characteristics is crucial for gaining a deeper understanding of their motivations and pain points.
  • Scenario: The specific journey that is being mapped. What is the user trying to do? In what context? The scenario should clarify the scope of the journey.
  • Phases: The phases categorize different user actions into meaningful chunks, providing organization of actions, thoughts, and emotions at a high level. Which, in turn, helps to see better how the user progresses through the journey.
  • Actions: These are the moments where the user makes decisions or interacts with the product or service.
  • Emotions, thoughts, and quotes: What the user is thinking and feeling. Use illustrations or emojis and real quotes from your users to enrich the journey and help you empathize with the user.
  • Channels: The different channels or devices the user might use as a way to perform a specific task.
  • Insights and opportunities: Opportunities showcase the learnings gathered from the journey and possible steps to extend or enhance the user experience.

Share and iterate

There’s no right and wrong for how the final version of the user journey should look. Tailor your journey to align with your goals and the intended sharing format. Determine which aspects to emphasize, whether it’s very polished or a simple draft that works best for your team.

If you have time, illustrations can be a good way to encapsulate the user’s behaviors while also captivating the attention of the reader. 

After the journey is completed, discuss the next steps with your team, and define metrics. Also, assign ownership to create an action plan.

The last step would be to share it. If you work with remote teams, collaborative whiteboards like Miro and Figjam can be helpful tools, but if you work in an office – why not put your user journey on the wall? Just make sure it’s accessible to everyone and that you keep it updated by frequently iterating.

Free user journey quick guide

To help you build your own user journey, we developed a quick guide for you to use in your next projects. It includes:

  • Summary of necessary steps;
  • Description of the components with an example;
  • Checklist to successfully build a user journey map;
  • User journey template.

🔗 Follow the link below the blog post for free download.

Other experience maps

Apart from user journeys, numerous other experience maps offer user-centered visualizations of the user experience. Besides having different purposes, they are often mistaken for user journeys. Let’s explore a few of them and highlight what sets them apart:

Customer journey: A customer journey is essentially a user journey, but with a focus on users who have become customers. The user begins the customer journey by considering a purchase and continues it until completion.

It includes marketing, sales, and customer support insights, and there is a stronger emphasis on building and maintaining a relationship between the customer and the business.

Service blueprint: It represents an overview of how a company provides a service to a customer by focusing on the process and alignment between internal teams. It could be useful to integrate new services or improve existing ones. While the user journey focuses on the user experience, the blueprint focuses on providing the ideal experience from an organization’s perspective.

User flow: A user flow is a set of interactions that describe the typical or ideal steps needed to accomplish a specific task within the product. Flow charts, wireframes, or high-fidelity mockups can represent it. These flows showcase the necessary steps and required system responses but do not contextualize the process with emotions and thoughts.


User journeys are a great tool for shifting your company’s perspective and creating a shared vision of the customer’s needs and priorities. It’s important to note that it can be hard work and time-consuming to produce a successful user journey when not having the right process and the right team.

Communicate and educate your stakeholders on the advantages it can bring to your team or your company and keep focused on the goals.

Happy mapping!


Marta Costa

Marta Costa

Marta is a multidisciplinary UX/UI designer who has been crafting experiences for B2C and B2B digital products for almost ten years. Her ultimate goal is to design easy-to-use, meaningful, and enjoyable products that will make businesses thrive. She is a problem solver who loves to embrace new challenges and learn about new industries, technologies, and of course, users!

Related posts.