The role of Customer Journeys in User Experience

It’s about the journey (man), not the destination…

We know that when looking to understand user experience that it is not all just about the usability of an application but figuring out what the user’s prior experiences and expectations are, and how their values and beliefs might impact on their behaviour (Hassenzahl, 2010).    We want to understand the user’s story.   Creating a Customer Journey map or diagram showing all the interactions a customer goes through when engaging with a company is a useful way of illustrating that story.

What is a customer journey?

”Customer journey maps are documents that visually illustrate an individual customer’s needs, the series of interactions that are necessary to fulfill those needs, and the resulting emotional states a customer experiences throughout the process.”
UX Matters 

Customer Journey

Where do customer journeys start?      I want to…

Looking at user’s behaviour and motivations only from the time they arrive at an application is too late. We need to consider their journey from the time they think.. I want to book a flight ticket or I need to find information on.. and think about the different routes users took to reach their goals.
As someone recently described it to me, it’s a bit like getting the tube in London. Many of the passengers are going towards the same destination but arrive there in different ways.  Some stop at every stop, others get off at one stop, do something else and get back on later, while others go straight to Piccadilly Circus.

From a UX research point of view Steve Benford has published extensively on the role of user journeys in complex user experience in 4 different multi technology in museums and outdoors (Benford 2009).    He describes user journeys through ‘trajectories’ which highlight the journeys ‘overall continuity and coherence’.   He notes that interactions are steered by user as they define their own trajectories but the trajectory is also shaped by the environment and experience the user find themselves in.   He also speaks of the influence of group participation in interactive user experiences.

What are the important parts of customer journeys?

  • It highlights interactions or the necessary steps customers take to achieve their goals
  • There is an emphasis on decisions or choice points along the route
  • We are interested in the emotions that influence those decisions and motivate customers to behave and respond in the way they do
  • We want to know what barriers or blockages customers encounter and aim to minimise those
  •  We understand users guides their own story but also that they become a character in a bigger story created by designers. Often there is a tension between the two.
  • Journeys may be taken alone or in groups and may involve encounters with other participants long the way

Why use customer journeys?

They help us convert research findings and analysis into visually compelling stories, which allows us develop use cases and personas which stakeholders can easily understand and interpret.

It allows us to combine data and insight from other areas such as SEO and Analytics to inform overall UX strategy.

And most of all, it keeps the user and their story at centre stage of the whole UX Process.


Hassenzahl, M. 2010 ‘User Experience and Experience Design’, accessed 14 June 2011, from

Benford, S., Giannachiz, G., Koleva, B., Rodden, T. 2009 ‘ From Interaction to Trajectories: Designing Coherent Journeys Through User Experiences’  CHI User Experience, April, pp709 -7118


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