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Digital city festival


14 Apr 2021

User Journey Mapping: Changing your brief

Matt Smith, Head of Strategy & Experience, CTI Digital
User Journey Mapping: Changing your brief
Matt Smith, CTI Digital
CTI's Head of Strategy and Experience explores the strategy of User Journey Mapping, which helps businesses better understand their users, peers, members, or customers.

If you’ve got a goal, it’s likely you’ve written a brief. With your brief in hand, you’re ready to build a more detailed roadmap and digital strategy, informed by user research. 

User Journey Mapping is a great tool for you to get started with as it provides a wide-reaching overview of a current or desired experience. The outputs of your journey map can then feed back into your brief to ensure you’re moving towards the right solution.

How and when to use User Journey Mapping

Once you have an idea and you’ve created a brief for the project, you can start thinking about how your visitors will actually use your new product. When you’ve spent time planning your new brief and the features you want to include, it’s important to map those features back to how they apply to the mindset of your users.

That's where user or customer journey mapping comes in. It’s a visual overview of how users interact with and experience your website, products, or business across multiple touchpoints.

What information can User Journey Maps give you?

Simply understanding the reasons why visitors come to your site isn’t always enough. By having this visual representation, you and the stakeholders involved in your digital project are able to refer back to it at any point.

The goal is to ensure that the user’s story remains front and centre in people’s minds through the decisionmaking process.

You can delve into the touchpoints, emotions and challenges your users experience at each step of the journey.

These touchpoints come in a variety of shapes and sizes including:

  • How the user found your product in the first place

  • Their first experience on your website/app

  • The first interaction they make when trying to find a specific item

  • A click on the menu that takes them (or doesn’t) where they want to go

  • An order confirmation email

When you take actual interactions into consideration, you’re better able to design based on actual users, or at least accurate personas - rather than personal opinions.

Map it back to your brief

Whenever you uncover more information about your company, resources, users, customers, or stakeholders, you must map the information back to your brief.

A customer may spend too long browsing and adding products to their cart only to close the tab before checking out. If it’s taking customers several clicks to get from A to B when it should only take one, you might discover a function of your website outside your brief is causing the disruption.

If you have definitive goals to achieve as part of your brief, stopping there will leave you blind to the real challenges users are facing. Once you’ve conducted your user research, your brief and requirements should adapt to include this information.

Different types of journey mapping and when to use them

Journey mapping isn’t a one size fits all solution. There are a number of different types of journey maps. Each has a different purpose, and which you choose will depend on what you want to achieve from the process.

Here are three types of journey maps which can help you better understand your users, peers, members, or customers:

Current state journey mapping

A current state journey map summarises everything your current users do, think and feel when they interact with your website or application.

This is a linear map detailing changes in emotion, actions, questions, and challenges at each stage of the journey a user takes to complete a single task.

It can help you to identify new opportunities to improve customer interactions with your brand or new ideas to include in your marketing strategy.

Future state journey mapping

A future state map does what it says on the tin. It’s a goal-setting map to improve on your current state by imagining what the perfect interaction may look like and how you can take steps to reach that ideal.

Future-state journey maps show what your users will do, think and feel in an ideal future. This type works best when you’re designing new products or services.

Non-linear: The Mental Content Model

Not every business fits the typical linear journey. For these, use the mental content model. Although most organisations have a target audience with a ‘typical user’, some need to work for people from all walks of life.

A great example is of a charity with a highly emotional cause, whose users vary from uninitiated users to experts and medical professionals.

If you followed a linear journey map for a typical user, you’d end up unintentionally missing users whose situation has caused them to change paths, act differently, or transition into an entirely new persona.

Considering a user’s state of mind allows you, or the designer, to stress-test product designs ahead of development. Ultimately, this approach ensures you can design with empathy, assessing outputs through the eyes of the user, whatever their goal or emotional state.

Back to the brief

Once you’ve got your user journey, reflect back on your brief. Are the challenges and opportunities present reflective of your goal, or is there a new concept your brief needs to include?

Matt Smith will discuss writing and using briefs that actually work at Digital City Festival on April 19th. The event takes place in a truly digital form from April 12th - 23rd. Will you be part of it?