Developing user journeys for a website
09 / 02 / 2015

Developing User Journeys for a Website


Chris Hodgen




Anyone who has been involved in developing a professional, user led website, will have heard of the term ‘User Journey’ in the development process. User Journeys are a series of steps, representing scenarios in which users might interact with the site you are designing. They can be used for 2 main things;

  • Demonstrating the way users currently interact with a website
  • Demonstrating the way users could interact with a website

Developing user journeys for key tasks on a website are critical to its success. Using the example of a University website; how a potential student finds a course could be the difference between application or not. This is no different in online retail. If users cannot find or purchase the item that they want because the journey isn’t a smooth process, then you will find you have a high drop off rate before the user has a chance to complete the order.

There are many benefits to investing time into User Journeys;

They help us to understand user behaviour and personality. They can aide us in finding out how users will interact with the site, and exactly what they are expecting from it.

  • They help us to identify possible functionality at high level. By understanding the key tasks our audience want to perform, means that we can begin to understand what functionality we require to complete those tasks.
  • Demonstrating the vision for the project; User Journeys are a great way of communicating what it is you want to achieve with your stakeholders.
  • User journeys are typically refined at the research stage, and usually follow the development of User Personas. They are used collaboratively to visualise requirements, wants and needs. This initial research then feeds into other design activities such as Information Architecture and Wire framing.

The main structure a user journey should contain, are a series of steps. It is down to collaboration with your agency as to how many steps you need to best represent the journey. At this stage, you need to think broadly, below is an example;

  • Context – Where is the user? What is around them? Are there any external factors which may be distracting them?
  • Progression – How does each step enable them to get to the next?
  • Devices – What devices are they using? What features does that device have?
  • Functionality – What type of functionality is your customer expecting?
  • Emotion – What is their emotional state at each step? Engaged, bored, annoyed?

If the purpose of your user journey development is to show the current state of affairs, then make sure to highlight issues along the way, and ideas on how to solve them.

If the purpose is to show the future journey, then think of this in an ideal world. What would be the best option (budgets aside) and what an achievable option is, then explain how each of these options affect the user.

User journeys are best developed alongside a development team, to ensure that the functionalities are at least feasible, not just from a technical perspective, but also from a budget perspective!

There are no rules to designing a user journey, it can be as simplistic or complicated as you need it to be. It may be a simple text-based list of steps or it may be a flowchart, so long as by the end you have a series of steps which create an effective journey for a customer, then you are on the right track!