User Journey Map

The Basic Idea

A young woman is mindlessly scrolling through reels on social media and sees an advert for a product which gets her attention. She begins researching the product, comparing features, prices, and reading customer reviews. She decides to purchase the item, so she adds it to her shopping cart and completes the online transaction. Two days later, the young woman receives the product and submits her feedback effortlessly via the email link that popped into her inbox earlier in the day. 

A retired man in his early 70s needs to see a doctor for a non-urgent medical issue. He rings the clinic early in the morning to book an appointment for the same day. The receptionist deals with the man’s request, but then sends him a link to a new appointment booking app. She advises him that starting next month, all appointments should be requested through the app. Although the man has a smartphone, he is not comfortable with using apps. He downloads the app, but has trouble navigating the complex verification system. Furthermore, the writing on the app’s interface is very small, making it hard for him to read the sign-up instructions. 

What do these two scenarios have in common? 

Both describe a process which can be mapped and visualized using a user journey map. As you can see, user journeys can be either good or bad, with the user either completing a desired behavior (ordering a product) or not (failing to register on the app). 

A user journey map is a visual representation that illustrates the steps and interactions a user goes through when engaging with a product or service. The purpose of this user experience (UX) tool is to enable companies to put themselves in the shoes of their users to “see”, and therefore understand, what they go through moment to moment. User journey mapping is crucial for highlighting moments of both frustration (known in UX terms as ‘pain points’) and delight during the users’ sequence of experiences, in order to improve the overall user experience. Ultimately, user journey maps plot the barriers that may impact a user’s willingness or ability to complete a desired behaviour.

While there are many different types of user journey maps, all of them have the following five elements in common:

1.    Actor/persona

2.    Scenario and Expectations

3.    Journey Phases

4.    Actions, Mindsets, and Emotions

5.    Opportunities

These components may be adapted based on the specific goals, context, and audience for which the user journey is being created. The primary aim is to build a comprehensive representation of the user’s experience to inform design, marketing, and decision-making processes.

One [of the biggest mistakes] is believing there is an ‘ideal customer.’ It is like building your marriage expectations around a profile of the ‘ideal husband or wife.

Chip Bell, inventor of the user journey map.

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Key Terms

Touchpoints: The moments of interaction between the user and the product or service. 

Pain points: Areas in the user journey where users encounter difficulties, frustrations, or obstacles. The objective is to minimize or eliminate pain points from the user journey. 

Persona: A fictional character representing a specific user segment, with characteristics, goals, and behaviors based on real user data.


The user, or customer, journey map is the creation of Chip Bell and Ron Zemke, both writers and consultants specializing in customer experience and service innovation. In 1985, the pair were invited by a large telephone company to get to the bottom of why they were receiving large numbers of hostile calls from their customers.1 The issue was related to customers’ experiences following residential telephone outages; remember, this was a time when telephones were either sat on a table or mounted on a wall. 

Bell and Zemke started by interviewing customers in focus groups to learn about their expectations and experiences with both the outages and the subsequent repairs. They listened to the customers’ end-to-end experiences and presented these findings to the telephone company. To illustrate the customers’ entire journey, Bell and Zemke needed several sheets of giant poster paper which they plastered all over the boardroom wall. The CEO was shocked. 

The company had no idea that their customers were being made to go through such a complex and arduous process just to obtain a solution to their problem. Immediately, the senior management knew why their customers were so furious. 

Since then, the user journey map has been developed and adapted across a diverse range of sectors and contexts. With the rise of digital products and services in the 2000s, user journey mapping became prevalent in the realm of digital design and user experience (UX). The digital era brought about the need for more sophisticated mapping techniques to accommodate complex, multichannel user interactions. And as technology continues to advance, user journey mapping continues to evolve with it.


Chip Bell – author, consultant and speaker known for his expertise in customer service and organizational leadership. Co-designer of the first customer/user journey map. 

Ron Zemke – author and consultant in the field of customer service, employee training, and organizational development. Co-designer of the first customer/user journey map.


User journey mapping provides a holistic understanding of the end-to-end customer experience, allowing businesses to identify pain points, opportunities for improvement, and moments that matter to users. By visualizing the entire user journey, organizations and businesses gain insights into user emotions, motivations, and behaviors, enabling them to design more user-centric products and services.  

However, user journey maps are not something you can just create and file away for future use. User journey maps must be updated regularly to reflect rapidly evolving user behaviors, consumer expectations, and market dynamics. If user journey maps become outdated, they won’t be able to provide designers with relevant insights.


So, you want to create a user journey map to help in designing a new product. But which type of customer do you choose for the map? Is it even possible to choose just one persona? 

Every potential user or customer is unique, with distinctive needs, behaviors, emotions, and goals. One of the main challenges in user journey mapping is avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach; that is, only mapping for one user persona. Trying to combine multiple diverse personas into one may lead to oversimplification and generalization that obscures the unique needs of potential users. This is particularly crucial when designing products and services which will be used by individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, or lived experiences. 

Inevitably, conflicting user goals and divergent pathways may arise, complicating the creation of a cohesive and coherent journey map. It’s necessary, therefore, to strike a balance between inclusivity and clarity; an overly complex user journey map is going to be difficult to interpret and not very effective in guiding decision-making.

Case Study

Behavioural Journey Map 

Typically, a user journey map provides insight into the more tangible barriers of a given task, helping designers visualize the physical and emotional journey that a person experiences when they go from A to B. 

A behavioral journey map, on the other hand, focuses on the psychological barriers and biases faced by users. This approach utilizes scientific principles to understand the invisible, as well as visible, pain points that users encounter. 

Various behavioral scientists have been experimenting with this approach, mostly by using a COM-B structure to code the factors influencing behavior at each stage of the journey. The enablers and barriers (the things that work and don’t work) are coded according to three categories:

·      Capability – the physical, psychological, and social ability to perform a behavior

·      Opportunity – the presence of enabling factors such as time, resources, and support

·      Motivation – the person’s intention to perform the behavior

Together, these three areas give designers a comprehensive overview of the users’ experience from a behavioral perspective. 

Inclusive and Diverse Mapping 

User mapping seems pretty individualistic, right? The goal is to ensure that each and every user has the optimum experience with a product or service. However, as we’ve already seen, pleasing everyone is no easy task. 

Academics in the field of UX design have been pondering over this conundrum and thinking about ways to achieve inclusive journey mapping a diversity in user participation. As Callum Bradley et al. highlight, technology advancements in the field of rail transport may improve the UX for the majority, but for some demographic groups, those same improvements may be experienced as barriers to a successful journey.2 The authors propose the concept of systemic UX as an innovative approach that balances users’ needs while ensuring that minority demographics are not overlooked. 

Similarly, a study by Tim Halbach, Kristin Skeide Fuglerud, and Trenton Schulz at Norsk Regnesentral (Norwegian Computing Center) shows that co-creation workshops, where user journeys and personas are developed jointly with workshop participants, can help to make the process of user journey mapping more inclusive and diverse.3

Related TDL Content

Thinking outside the App

Want to know more about how user journey mapping is applied to real-life situations? In this article, Yael Mark talks about how user journey maps can be used to elevate users’ experiences with taxi marketplace apps. Rather than just looking at the digital experience, product managers must look at real-life pain points which accompany any ride-hailing app experience. 

How to create journey maps to improve EX (Employee Experience)

While journey mapping has become an essential tool for understanding customer behavior, little has been done to improve the experience of employees. In this article, Lindsey Turk and Sekoul Krastev present the benefits of applying journey mapping to Employee Experience (EX) in order to understand workers’ needs and ultimately improve employee satisfaction and retention.


1.    Bell, C. (2023, April 27). The Origin of Customer Journey Mapping. CXMToday.

2.    Bradley, C., Oliveira, L., Birrell, S., & Cain, R. (2021). A New Perspective on Personas and Customer Journey Maps: Proposing Systematic UX. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 148. 

3.    Halbach, T., Fuglerud, K. S., & Schulz, T. W. (2023). Best Practice for Inclusive Journey Mapping and Diversity in User Participation. International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction HCII 2023, 61-73. 


About the Author

Dr. Lauren Braithwaite

Dr. Lauren Braithwaite

Dr. Lauren Braithwaite is a Social and Behaviour Change Design and Partnerships consultant working in the international development sector. Lauren has worked with education programmes in Afghanistan, Australia, Mexico, and Rwanda, and from 2017–2019 she was Artistic Director of the Afghan Women’s Orchestra. Lauren earned her PhD in Education and MSc in Musicology from the University of Oxford, and her BA in Music from the University of Cambridge. When she’s not putting pen to paper, Lauren enjoys running marathons and spending time with her two dogs.

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