What are user journeys in product discovery?

11 min read
July 17, 2023

The end-goal of every product discovery process is to create a product that meets your users’ needs.

Creating a product with a great user experience (UX) is crucial to achieving that goal.

User journeys, or user journey maps, are a great tool to use in improving your product’s UX.

They can also be used as a validation tool.

We’ve identified creating a journey map as one of the 6 steps you should take to validate your mobile app idea.

Now let’s discuss what exactly user journeys are, what are the benefits of using them in product discovery, and how you can create them.

What are user journeys in product discovery?

So, what exactly are user journeys?

User journeys are a visual representation of the process a person goes through in order to accomplish a goal when using your product.

In other words, they’re a step-by-step visualization of your user’s path from the moment they learn about your product to the moment they become regular users.

User journeys map out your user’s actions, decisions, and emotions as they interact with your product.

They provide your team with a birds-eye view of your users’ journey, making it easier for them to empathize with their needs and pain points.

They’re useful because they let you see your product from the users’ perspective – this ultimately helps you create a product that better serves your users’ needs.

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As pictured above, there are 5 stages to your users’ journey as they use your product:

  • Awareness – when they become aware of your product
  • Consideration – when they’re deciding whether or not to purchase your product
  • Purchase – the moment they decide to purchase your product
  • Retention – when they’re actively using your product
  • Advocacy – when they’re recommending your product to others

Of course, you can adapt these stages to your preferences but it’s key you represent the entire user journey from start to finish.

User journeys are most commonly represented through diagrams, flowcharts and storyboards.

Just like with the user journey stages, you can choose whichever medium works best for your organization as long as you depict your users’ entire journey.

Benefits of creating user journeys in product discovery

Now that we’ve defined user journeys, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using them in product discovery.

There are 3 key benefits of creating user journeys in product discovery:

  • User journeys help you create a user-centric design
  • User journeys improve your product’s UX
  • User journeys validate your assumptions about user behavior

Let’s explore each of these benefits in more detail.

User journeys help you create a user-centered product

As we mentioned previously, meeting your users’ needs is the ultimate goal of every product discovery process.

One way that an increasing number of organizations make that happen is by implementing user-centered design.

But, what exactly is user-centered design?

User-centered design is an iterative design process in which designers focus on user needs in every stage of the design process.

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source: Reveall

As pictured above, there are 5 stages to the user-centered design process:

  • Research – conducting UX research
  • Define – setting the scope of your product
  • Design – designing your product and making a prototype
  • Evaluate – testing your prototype and acting on feedback
  • Iterate – follow up after acting on feedback and improving your product

So, how exactly does creating user journeys during product discovery help you create a user-centered product?

For starters, the goals of user-centered design dovetail nicely with the goals of product discovery – creating a product that meets your users’ needs.

We’ve already mentioned that user journeys let your team see your product from your users’ perspective.

Your users don’t see your product from the same point of view as you do.

Your user journey can function as a reminder to your design team about how your users will engage with your product.

This will help them not only empathize with your users but also to create a product that better meets their needs.

User journeys improve your product’s UX

One of the most important elements that make a product successful is having great UX.

You can’t meet your users’ needs without providing them with a good experience.

You can use user journeys in product discovery to help you identify areas where you can improve your product’s UX.

As they provide you with a comprehensive end-to-end view of your users’ experience, you can more easily pinpoint where they experience friction when using your product.

Friction refers to any obstacle that interferes with the user experience.

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User journeys become especially useful for solving UX friction when you use them in conjunction with other methods, like user flows.

User flows are a visual representation of the path a typical user takes to complete tasks while using your product.

By using both in conjunction with one another, your discovery team will have a better understanding of where friction occurs and how to address it.

This’ll allow them to cut down on unnecessary interactions and optimize how your users use your product.

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Let’s say you’ve gathered user feedback about the friction they’re experiencing when using your product and want to implement changes to make your product’s UX better.

You can map out the feedback you’ve received on your user journey map.

As they provide an end-to-end view of how your product is used, you’ll be able to see how one particular point of friction affects how they navigate through your product as a whole.

This insight will help you improve your product’s UX and remove unnecessary steps that cause friction, ultimately resulting in a better product.

User journeys help validate your assumptions about user behavior

One of the most important benefits of product discovery is validating your product idea.

Validation during product discovery is much broader than just validating your initial idea.

Every element and deliverable during product discovery should be validated to ensure accuracy and prevent costly mistakes.

It’s especially important to validate any assumptions you have about user behavior before continuing with discovery.

Wrong assumptions about your users’ needs, motivations, and pain points dramatically increase your product’s chances of failure.

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source: Voice+Code

You can utilize user journeys to help validate your assumptions about your users’ behavior.

So, how can you do this?

You should start with making a user journey map based on your initial assumptions about your users and how you think they’ll interact with your product.

Your next step should be to conduct user research and get feedback from your users about your product.

A handy way to use user journeys in user research is using them as a reference point during user interviews, focus groups and surveys.

You can show specific touchpoints on the journey map to your users and ask for feedback.

You’ll not only get feedback to improve your user journey map but also gain valuable insights about your users’ pain points, frustrations and friction points when using your product.

How to create user journeys in product discovery

Now that we’ve defined user journeys and discussed the benefits of creating user journeys in product discovery, let’s talk about the steps you need to take to create them.

There are 3 key steps you need to take to create user journeys in product discovery:

  • Identify your target audience and define their goals
  • Map out your user journey
  • Validate and refine your user journey

Let’s break down each of these steps in more detail.

Identify your target audience and define their goals

Before you can begin mapping out your users’ journey, you need to identify your target audience.

Accurately determining your target audience is crucial for the success of your product discovery process.

Your target audience is a specific group of people in your target market who are likely to buy your product i.e. become your users.

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To determine the target audience for your user journey map, you need to conduct market research first.

We’ve identified that as one of the key steps in the market research process.

It’s also wise to conduct initial user research to gain a deeper understanding of your target audience’s behaviors and characteristics before creating your user journeys.

If you’ve created user personas, they can also be a useful jumping-off point for your journey map.

The next step is defining the goals your users want to achieve using your product.

Let’s say you’re making a fintech app.

Some goals your users might have are:

  • Managing their expenses
  • Making instant peer-to-peer payments and transfers
  • Planning their financial goals
  • Tracking the progress of their investments

Defining these goals will help you create a user journey map that accurately reflects your users’ diverse needs and ensure you cover a comprehensive range of user experiences.

Map out your user journey

Once you’ve identified your target audience and defined their goals, you can begin mapping out the user journey.

Every user journey should start with the user’s initial touchpoint with your product i.e. the moment they become aware of your product.

This could be a range of scenarios, depending on your product:

  • Clicking on your website
  • Opening an ad on social media
  • Opening your app’s listing in an app store

Once you’ve defined your initial touchpoint, it’s time to map out all the key steps your user needs to take in order to accomplish their goal.

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source: Optimizely

Pictured above is an example of a simple step-by-step user journey showing a user’s path from arriving on a site all the way to conversion.

You should also add the emotions your users experience at every touchpoint to your journey map.

This’ll give you a deeper understanding of your users’ frustrations and pain points at every step of their journey.

source: Appcues

Pictured above is an example of a simple user journey map depicting the user’s emotions as they go through every stage of the journey.

The complexity of your journey map will depend primarily on the complexity of your product.

Regardless of its complexity, the key elements you should include are:

  • The initial touchpoint with your product
  • The path your users take when using your product
  • The stages of the user journey
  • The emotions they experience at every stage

Once you’ve mapped out your user journey, the next step is validating and refining it.

Validate and refine your user journey

Just like you should always validate your product idea, you should do the same with your user journey.

We’ve already discussed why validation is such an important concept in product discovery.

Validating your user journey will ensure it’s accurate and useful for your discovery team.

User journeys are iterative, meaning that they’re never static and can be updated as you uncover new insights about the way your users use your product.

Once you’ve made your initial user journey, the best way to validate it is to compare it with the insights you’ve gathered during your user research.

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The feedback you receive from your user research will improve its accuracy and relevancy.

You should document all the changes you make to the user journey for future reference.

This way you’ll be able to see exactly which of your initial assumptions were proven incorrect, helping you avoid the same mistakes in the future.

Even after you’re done with product discovery, you should continue updating your user journey e.g. when you introduce new features or market conditions change.

User journeys are a helpful tool for improving your product’s UX and validating your ideas and you should make use of them throughout your product’s entire lifecycle.

Conclusion

User journeys are a very helpful tool you can use to improve your product’s UX and better meet your users’ needs.

So, what are some benefits of creating user journeys in product discovery?

The key benefits are:

  • User journeys help you create a user-centric product
  • User journeys improve your product’s UX
  • User journeys validate your assumptions about user behavior

But, how do you create them?

The steps are:

  • Identifying your target audience and their goals
  • Mapping out your user journey
  • Validating and refining your user journey

If you’re interested in learning more about other aspects of product discovery, you can read our other articles or check out our product discovery process.

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Written by

Matej Maric

Product designer

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