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How to Build a User Journey Map

A user journey map is a visualization of a user’s interaction with a product. Having a clear user journey map in place helps UX designers and other key members of the team see a product from a user’s perspective.

Traditionally, the user journey map details all of the different touchpoints between a user and a product. Many use a timeline approach, which makes it easier to see how users interact with a product in a step-by-step process.

So, how can you create a user journey map that you and other team members can use to visualize the user’s interaction within your product?

Let’s find out…

Optimize for Value

The first mindset or ‘big picture’ approach you need to embrace is the fact that you need to make sure that people get value out of your product.

How to Build a User Journey Map

Identifying the value of your product can be a little tricky if you’re only focused on the actual product itself. Here’s an example of what I mean by this:

Let’s say that you’re selling Slack. Yes, you’re technically selling a messaging application, but that’s not why people choose to download and use Slack. People use Slack to communicate with teams fast and get projects done more efficiently. So, you’re not selling a messaging app, you’re actually selling a way for teams to effectively communicate with each other.

Remember: when optimizing for value, the most efficient funnel ISN’T necessarily the best.

Instead, focus on getting users to your product’s ‘aha moment’ as quickly as possible. Keep the final outcome in your product at the forefront of your mind when building a user journey map.

How to Build a User Journey Map

When thinking of how you can optimize your user funnel for value, consider what users get from your product.

What does your product enable people to do?

Your answer to this question is the value that your product provides. To help you answer this question, think about how your product makes people’s lives easier.

What pain point does your product help solve?

Now that you know the value of your product, you must come up with a way to optimize for that value.

How to Build a User Journey Map

4 Steps to Optimize Your Conversion Funnel

There are four key steps to help optimize your conversion funnel:

1. Gut Analysis

The first step is the initial gut analysis of your conversion funnel (user journey map). This involves considering whether you are solving the right job with your product.

At first, marketers will want to focus on the functional job of a product. However, you also need to address and communicate the emotional and social job that your product does.

  • Functional job – The core tasks that customers want to get done
  • Emotional job – How customers want to feel (or avoid feeling) as a result of executing the core functional job
  • Social job – How customers want to be perceived by others

Next, let’s talk about Hick’s Law and Paradox of Choice.

Why is this relevant to your product and the user journey map?

Well, Hick’s law states that the more choices you give someone, the longer it takes for that person to make a decision. In other words, decision time increases with every additional choice.

Not only that, but the Paradox of Choice reveals that the more choices someone is given, the less likely they are to choose anything.

With this in mind, ask yourself about the choices you give to users. Are there too many choices? Are you making the decision process more difficult than it has to be?

Directional cues are another important matter to think about. Things like arrows, lines, movement, and so on, can be super powerful. But you need to make sure your directional cues effectively direct attention to the goal.

Directional Cues

Here’s a great example of how KISSmetrics uses directional cues to direct the viewers’ attention to the goal that the company wants people to take (sign-up to KISSmetrics).


All of your directional cues and elements in the onboarding phase must work together to achieve the same goal. This includes everything from your headlines to your imagery, videos, copy, social proof, CTA, and the overall onboarding experience.

Here’s a gut analysis checklist for both before and after signup:

How to Build a User Journey Map
Gut Analysis Checklist

Even with all of this knowledge and insight, some product creators still make mistakes!

Here are the 5 most common mistakes – take a look at them and try your best to avoid them!

  • Not directing user into the product and relying on activation emails.
  • Having a free trial page that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
  • Not showing onboarding progress.
  • Not making it easy to experience a quick win or "aha moment" within the product.
  • Not using the "focus mode."

2. User Journey Mapping

The user journey map shows how users get from point A to B.

If you offer a free trial of your product, customers will be able to experience the value of your product and, hopefully, sign-up to become a paying customer. Lincoln Murphy from Sixteen Ventures puts it perfectly:

Lincoln Murphy Quote

There are many ways to set up a user journey map such as using Trello or another mapping tool to create a storyboard of the user journey (see samples below).

How to Build a User Journey Map

The easiest way to visualize your user journey map is by thinking like a customer and going through the entire experience yourself.

Here are a few of my top tips for building a user journey map:

  • Record your screen going through your product experience using a tool like Loom.
  • Watch the recording of yourself and of your users using a tool like Fullstory.
  • Write out every step someone has to take for EVERY marketing channel.
  • Identify the macro and micro elements.
  • Put everything in a tool such as Lucidcharts or Trello to visualize your user journey for each marketing channel.

3. Quantitative Funnel Analysis

When user’s sign-up to use your product, it’s exciting. It’s good news when a user decides to commit to your product but what happens when they suddenly stop using it?

The best way to improve retention is by figuring out exactly where users are dropping off in the user journey and why.

One of the biggest mistakes people make at this stage is focusing too much on microelements along the user journey map. For example, the registration step for many products involves microelements such as signing up with an email address, confirming email, filling out personal details, and so on.

Whilst microelements are important, you should try to group these elements (see an example of this below using Canva). Doing so will help make the entire process easier to understand and help you to find any bottlenecks in your funnel.


4. Harnessing Motivation

Do you ever sign up for a new online product then never end up using it?

This is so common, and the main reason why is because humans are easily distracted! There’s always something else demanding our attention, so what can you do to make sure users actually use your product?

The answer is to instill motivation in the user to USE the product!

Here are some effective ways to create motivation in your product:

  • Checklists
  • Percentages
  • Progress bars
  • High-fives
  • Reaffirm your product's Value Proposition
  • Showcase the people behind the product
  • The promised land
  • Personalization
  • Add a sense of humor

Remember, value doesn’t come from our product. Value comes from what our product enables people to do!

I hope this post has helped you get a clearer idea of how to build a user journey map so that more people can experience the value of your product.

Wes Bush
Wes Bush
Wes Bush is the bestselling author of Product-Led Growth. He’s the founder of ProductLed.