Designing a user-friendly service requires an immense amount of preparation and research, In the process, it’s easy to lose sight of what the user really wants and needs. With dozens of touchpoints and factors to consider, keeping track of and prioritizing different elements that affect design can be an arduous task. At Cloudberry, we tackle this issue by using an Experience Map to distill and summarize all this information into something our designers can reference to create the most user-friendly experience possible.
So what exactly is an Experience Map?
Experience maps provide a clear visual interpretation of how functional processes come together with qualitative factors unique to the actual use of a product or service.
An experience map follows a representative user through a single storyline from start to finish. It traces a character’s experience with a service, drawing upon user research and interviews to reflect reactions at each touchpoint. For example, take a look at the experience map for “ACME Airlines.” The character “Paul” is written to strongly resemble Cloudberry’s co-founder Paul Roeraade and follows him through the process of booking a tropical getaway from chilly Bjorko, Finland.
Customer-centric process framework: Think like the user
As Paul’s experience booking a flight shows, user experience is influenced by more factors than can be controlled (e.g. bad weather delaying a flight). This makes it paramount for us to identify which variables have the potential to cloud his overall experience, and which factors we can control.
Your grandfather’s abacus
The way a user feels about a service is key to its success. While a product designer may create a brilliantly effective tool, that doesn’t necessarily make it user-friendly − think of your grandfather’s abacus.
An abacus is capable of performing complex calculations. But do you know how to use one? Chances are you don’t and would exchange it for the more convenient and practical pocket calculator.
If your service is complicated, like an abacus, you risk losing your customer due to frustration or lack of convenience, despite the fact that the service technically works.
Blending the process with the experience
We break our approach down into two categories:
- The Technical: Variables that operate separately from the user. The user will come into contact with some of these variables, while others will remain behind the scenes (for instance, a ticket kiosk versus the machine that fuels the plane).
- The Qualitative: Variables that come from the user, allowing us to get to know them. (Who are they, and what are their wants, needs, and expectations?). We generally discover these factors through user research and going through the user flows ourselves.
The beauty of an experience map is that it blends the technical and qualitative variables together.
- It provides an end-to-end view of your system process. A user’s experience in a previous task will color their impression of the next one.
- It shows the multitude of channels by which users interact: Today, users can communicate through web, phone, email, text, and more. Your user may use all of these methods when using your service.
- It will show you different states of the process: The linear storyline format of an experience map shows what your process looks like, what it could look like, and ultimately, what it will look like.
When do you use an Experience Map?
We often choose to use these maps when working with clients that are “Persona-exhausted,” or with projects that are complex, have multiple channels, or have Balkanized ownership. When necessary, it can be useful to add heuristic analysis, business overlays, user quotes & thoughts, or showstoppers to the map. The options are endless.
What processes do you have that might benefit from an Experience Map?