is a tool used to understand the user’s experience with a product or service. It helps you to identify user needs, pain points, and opportunities in a systematic way. In this article, I will illustrate the value of journey maps, lay out the necessary ingredients, and finally demonstrate an example.



Humans rely on stories to understand, make sense of, remember, and plan their lives. Story structure is hardwired in the functioning of the human brain: we think and perceive through stories. They are an effective way to communicatie facts, concepts, and tacit information such as attitudes, beliefs, and values.

Journey maps use story structure to communicate the user’s experience with a product or service. They are an effective way to communicate your research findings about the user’s experience with a product or service in a way that others can make sense of it.


Developing empathy for the user enhances user centred decision-making. Connecting with the users and how they might feel about their experience allows you to identify pain points and opportunities from the users’ perspective.

Journey maps enable you to develop empathy for the user. They help you frame their experience through the eyes of users, not the features of a solution.

Visual communication

A journey map is visual representation of events or touch points presented chronologically. It brings together different data points to create a holistic understanding of the users’ experience. Journey maps aim to establish a shared vision among stakeholders that are concerned with separate touch points or events in the journey.

Getting started

Now you’re convinced of the value of journey maps, how do you get started?

There are two types of journey maps: actual and planned. Actual journey maps are retrospective and map out how users currently interact with a product or service. Planned journey maps are prospective and map out how you expect or would like users to interact with a product or service.

At its essence, a journey map is a table with stages through time on the horizontal axis and themes for analysis on the vertical axis. The steps on the horizontal axis vary according to the topic of your analysis; The vertical axis usually consists of similar themes like touch points, pain points, emotions, thoughts, and opportunities.

Journey maps vary based on the specific context for which they are used. They can be used to review the current state of a product or service and identify opportunities for improvement; They can be used to overcome possible gaps between what a product or service provider plans to offer versus what the user actually experiences; They can be used to account for individual differences, and they can be used to inform design of new products and services. Based on the goal of your you decide how to lay out a journey map for your .

Journey maps should reflect a true story, not imagination. Therefore they should be based on solid research. Several data collection methods can be used and different types of data are combined and triangulated. Examples of methods include diary studies, interviews, web analytics, social media listening, and surveys.

Example of couple dynamics during IVF treatment

To illustrate this, I will show you an example of a journey map that I created with two colleagues Jan Derboven and Parinishtha Yadav at Meaningful Interactions Lab. We did this for a project in the context of fertility treatment.

The goal of the project was to develop a self-management app for couples during IVF treatment. To do this, we worked together with gynaecologists, midwives, and researchers studying the effects of mindfulness, physical activity, and diet at the university hospital in Leuven.

In this context, we studied couple interactions during IVF treatment and explored ways to support couple interactions via the app. To do this, we created journey maps to understand how couples interact with each other during IVF treatment.

To inform the journey maps I did observations, contextual enquiries, and interviews: I sat in on consultations between caregivers and couples during consultations; I did observations in the fertility lab while IVF was carried out; I interviewed gynaecologists, midwives, psychologists, a relaxation therapist, and a dietitian at their work location, and I visited couples at home to talk about their experiences during IVF treatment.

We laid out the touch points, emotions, barriers, points for improvement, and information needs in each phase of the journey for males and females separately identifying and highlighting their unique needs. There are quite some differences between the male and female experience. Females go through most of the treatment: They take hormones and they have to visit the hospital regularly for check-ups. Males have a smaller role and therefore they feel frustrated as they can do little during the treatment.

Journey Map for Males
Journey Map for Females

Finally we combined the two journey maps into one to identify opportunities for couple interaction and support.

Combined Journey Map for Couples

Using the combined journey map we identified three for opportunities for couple interaction and support:

  • Males and females could attend main appointments together. In the combined journey map, these touch points are marked with a star.
  • In the preparation phase males could help administering medication, help in the family life and the couple could help each other by talking about their experiences.
  • In embryo culture phase and implantation phase males and females could find distractions together.

Journey mapping allowed us to better understand couple interactions during IVF treatment and identify opportunities for couple interaction and support.

Besides providing understanding of the experience of couples receiving IVF treatment, journey mapping helped us to visualize the interactions in a clear way and enabled us to communicate the complex situation to team members more easily.

The results were used to inspire the development of concepts for couple features for our application.

This study was presented at Design4Health conference in Sheffield, UK, September 4–6, 2018. Want to read more about it? Acces the paper here.


Storytelling is a powerful way to put ideas into the world. Journey mapping helps you to use story structure to understand and share the user’s experience with a product or services from their point of view.

User journeys come in all shapes and forms. When just starting out with journey mapping it can be overwhelming as it may seem unclear why some journey maps include what.

Journey mapping is a flexible tool, there are many ways of how to use it. The main goal is to communicate the users’ experiences with a product or service. Based on the goal of your project you may choose to emphasize or leave out certain parts.

In the example we choose to create separate journey maps for males and females to analyze the difference between their experiences. Finally, we combined them to identify opportunities for couple interaction during IVF treatment.

Want to use journey mapping for your project? Define your goal and to whom you want to communicate your findings to. Let the journey map unfold your own unique experience to tell the story of your users.


Halvorsrud, R., Kvale, K., Følstad, A. (2016). Improving service quality through customer journey analysis, Journal of Service Theory and Practice, 26(6), 840–867,

Van Boeijen, A., Daalhuizen, J., Zijlstra, J., Van Der Schoor, R. (2013). Delft Design Guide: Design Methods. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers

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