User Experience mapping, also known as UX mapping, is the process of creating step-by-step visual flows of experiences users have with your product while trying to achieve a certain objective. For most products, there isn't a singular pathway to achieve a goal. Think of it as if you're a restaurant owner: all customers coming into your restaurant are hungry and want food. Some want pasta, others want a sandwich, or some might just want a drink. Though their end goal may be similar or the same, the flow and path they take to achieve their goal can be radically different. A UX map is a depiction of the user interacting and engaging with your product until they achieve this goal.
UX mapping allows developers and product designers to streamline the efficiency of their user flows, thus optimizing for conversions. If your UX is easy and clear, fewer users will "fall off" and abandon the product as they experience a particular flow. The act of creating the UX map forces us to walk through the flow step by step, and will clearly point out any missing or superfluous user-required actions. Adding visuals to your UX map will let you and your team view the experience flow from a bird's eye view, so you can decide if this is the best way for the user to achieve this particular action.
User experience maps are specific to an individual user flow. One product will generally have multiple user flows, such as how to sign up for a trial, how to purchase an account, and how to save and share work. In this example, each of these individual user flows would have their own UX map.
Customer journey mapping is the act of creating a general story of how a potential user or persona will have a need for your product, come across the product, engage with it, and then purchase. They are much more general maps and are more useful for strategic marketing rather than process or conversion rate improvements.
First you need to choose one of your product's user flows. Decide which specific user action you want to focus on and improve. A good way to decide on a flow is to analyze your data and try to pinpoint where your users are falling off. Are they landing on your page but not moving any further? Are they starting free trials but not converting into paying customers? Isolating where you're losing users will allow you to identify which flows need to be improved.
After you choose a specific user experience flow to map out, you need to break the flow down into individual stages. Start with how a user would end up in this flow, the actions they need to accomplish to progress through the flow, and where they may land after the flow is completed.
After you've broken the flow down into individual stages, it's essential to note which stages require user interaction. For example, if one of the stages in your user flow requires the user to choose from three choices, note this as a required user action. After you finish creating your UX map, you can total up the number of required user actions and decide if this is too many and if any of them are superfluous.
Last, but certainly not least, make sure to address all user friction points. Which specific points or stages have even a slight chance that the user may be confused? As developers or product designers, we are almost always too close to the product to have a clear understanding of where users may be confused. Creating the UX map breaks the flows down into more digestible user actions, and each situation with even a small chance of user confusion should be noted and analyzed for possible improvement.
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