A Journey Map in 7 Steps


A journey map allows you to walk in your audience’s shoes. It allows you to understand your own organization as an outsider.

Paul Boag writes in Smashing Magazine, “data often fails to communicate the frustrations and experiences of customers. A story can do that, and one of the best storytelling tools in business is the customer journey map.”

Adam Richardson of Frog Design writes, “A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. The more touchpoints you have, the more complicated—but necessary—such a map becomes. Sometimes customer journey maps are ‘cradle to grave,’ looking at the entire arc of engagement.”

“Most of all,” writes Boag, “a customer journey map puts the user front and center in the organization’s thinking. It shows how mobile, social media and the web have changed customer behavior. It demonstrates the need for the entire organization to adapt.”

What Does a Journey Map Show?

What can you include in a journey map? The basics: Your unique audience member relationship lifecycle with your organization. Include their expectations for you organization at each step and how well you are meeting those expectations.

What else? McorpCX’s CEO of customer experience, Michael Hinshaw says that “nice-to-haves” include: brand perceptions, individual touchpoints, operational performance metrics, moments-of-truth, customer pain points, improvement opportunities, and other customer-facing elements that can provide great insight into your customers’ experience. “Journey maps can also include behind-the-scenes people, processes, systems, and brand data,” Hinshaw writes.

Creating a Journey Map: Step By Step

The Interaction Design Foundation suggests a seven-step process for creating a journey map.

  1. Align the mapping process with your core organizational objectives. What are your goals for this mapping exercise? What organizational needs do you intend to meet?
  2. Bring together both analytical research (like website analytics and tracking your social presence) and anecdotal research (what have your audience members told you, what has your sales team told you about your audience) about your audience and their experience of your organization. You’ve already done a lot of this work creating your personas. How do your audience members currently interact with your organization? On what channels? In what order? Where do you lose their interest?
  3. List “touchpoints” and channels. A touchpoint is any moment when there is an interaction between your organization and an audience member. Looking at your website in a touchpoint. Receiving an email from you is a touchpoint. A call to your staff in a touchpoint. Making a donation is a touchpoint. Attending your event in one, too.
  4. Create an empathy map, which examines how the customer feels during each interaction. “You want to concentrate on how the customer feels and thinks as well as what they will say, do, hear, etc. in any given situation,” according to the Interaction Design Foundation.
  5. Sketch the customer journey. According to the Interaction Design Foundation, “You can build a nice timeline map that brings together the journey over the course of time. You could also turn the idea into a video or an audio clip or use a completely different style of diagram. The idea is simply to show the motion of a customer through touchpoints and channels across your time period and how they feel about each interaction on that journey.”
  6. Iterate and produce your sketches. Bring in a graphic designer to create the clearest visual representation that you can.
  7. Distribute and utilize. “You need to get [your journey map] out there to people and explain why it’s important. Then it needs to be put to use, you should be able to define KPIs around the ideal journey, for example, and then measure future success as you improve the journey,” according to the Interaction Design Foundation.

Creating your journey map should allow you to take action. Michael Hinshaw writes, “It should identify a few quick fixes, including opportunities to boost enjoyment and improve the journey… In brief, mapping the journey should help lead to specific actions–actions that improve the experience and drive the ROI to justify the effort and increase internal support.”

Michael Hinshaw warns that creating a journey map could cause “analysis paralysis.” Deep research into your audience will produce a lot of data and it can be tempting to try to include a lot of it in your journey map. “Don’t,” Hinshaw writes. “Remember that [the journey map is] a tool to help you easily understand customers and their needs. That core message can get lost in the details.”

To test the veracity of your journey map, you may want to have someone “mystery shop” your organization. This means asking an objective third party to go through the many touchpoints that audience members have with your organization and report back on their experience. Does your e-newsletter provide the inspiration that you hope it does? Does calling your organization with a question result in the information needed? A mystery shopper can find out for sure.


This article is an excerpt from my book-in-progress called "Ignite Action: A Digital Strategy Handbook." For more about the book, check out my "why" for writing it.