Journey-driven design: mapping design to your user’s needs


Journey-driven design has become an extremely important factor that impacts the user experience (UX), and few designers today would disagree with the notion that it is crucial to the quality of their work. Yet, often the case, UX designers lose focus on who they are designing for and tend to incorporate their own vision into the product.

What it is and why it matters

To avoid this misstep, designers should stay focused on journey-driven design, and stick to a design process that focuses on their users’ needs and requirements. Ensuring that the design work follows this process by making decisions based on the needs of the end user. Ultimately, the aim of the user-driven design process is to create something that has great usability for the type of end-user which you have intended to reach.

Journey-driven design plays an important role in developing apps and websites as it requires designers to keep target users in mind throughout the entire design process. This type of design is centered on the idea that a product’s success is directly linked to how well you understand your users and cater to their needs.

In the past, businesses were mostly concerned with getting the best product to market as quick as possible. Today’s customers, however, demand so much more than a great product and have much higher expectations for their online experiences. As Apple’s User Experience Design Director Willy Lai points out, designing a pretty app can only get you so far. He stresses the importance of making the end product usable, useful, and desirable.

A 2017 study by Localytics noted the shrinking attention span of today’s users as it found that 24% of users abandon an app after one use. A separate study from Kissmetrics found that 40% of users won’t return to a website if they have a bad first experience. Statistics like these are a reminder that UX designers only have a few moments to engage prospective users and draw them to their product. This is where user research, user feedback and usability testing comes into play as valuable tools that can help you learn from your users and adjust your product in line with their requirements.

Following the user throughout their journey

Although there is no formula or one-size fits all approach to implementing a journey-driven design, there are, however, practical steps that can be taken to enhance the UX of your product. A good starting point would be outlining user personas or semi-fictional representations of different consumers who are your ideal users.

In order to address the needs of the user personas, you will need to design for the buyer’s journey, which refers to the active research process that people go through in the lead up to making a purchase. Essentially, this journey is a three-stage process which involves awareness, consideration and the decision which is eventually made by the user or buyer.

Mapping design to the buyer’s journey

Understanding the buyer’s journey stages provides a better insight into the web design process. In the awareness stage, you should assume that your prospective buyer or user is not familiar with your company or the fact that they have a pain point or need which you can fulfill. From the get-go, an app or website should deliver content about the products and services that a company offers from the perspective of the end user.

You should be aware that 72% of users turn to Google to research products and services, according to a recent study by Pardot. Usually, buyers’ research progress begins with a few general search terms as they sift through options that are available to them, while they will probably search for product reviews, testimonials, in an effort to make a more informed purchasing decision. Making such resources available to users on your website or app and ensuring that your platform is optimized for SEO will help you a great deal with this.

Once buyers narrow down their options, the chances are that they will return to the research stage once again. According to Pardot’s State of Demand Generation report, 70% of buyers return to Google at least 2-3 times during their research process, as they take their time to explore specific offerings to determine how they can resolve their pain points.

When a buyer reaches the decisions stage, they will evaluate their options and narrow down their list of companies, products or services and weigh the pros and cons before making a final decision. Keeping this in mind, your goal should be to create and provide content to the prospective buyer that gives them all the information they would need to make that decision.

There several types of content that can be designed into on a website or app with the user persona in mind that can help convince a buyer to decide in your favor. Some of these assets include white papers, webcasts, and case studies while adding a free trial option or discount for first-time users also provide an incentive for the buyer at the end of their journey.

A roadmap to better usability

Throughout the buyer’s journey, users will mostly like be looking for something of value to them- whether it be an important piece of information or a solution to a problem they are facing. This is why it is absolutely critical that the content and navigation flow of your website is designed with this in mind. UX designers can do this by anticipating users’ behaviors and conceptualizing all of the different paths they will take when interacting with the product.

When in doubt about the best way to go about mapping the user’s journey, designers can ask themselves a few key questions to stay on task: What is the user attempting to do with the content, how are they interacting with the interface, how do they feel about the experience, and does the product fulfill their needs and requirements?

One of the best examples of a successful product built on user-centered design principles is Apple’s iPad. When launching this product in 2010, the company did so knowing that there was a gap in their customer preferences that needed to be filled. The iPad was an answer to the demand for a device that is more portable than a laptop, yet offers better functionality than a Smartphone at the same time.

Designing for a multi-screen experience

Another important question that should be asked is what devices are being used to access your app or website. Today’s tech-savvy consumers switch between various types of devices throughout the day. Although most of their technology use is likely dominated by Smartphones, the truth is that consumers are not married to one device in particular.

A 2016 Think with Google study revealed that over half of users rely on more than one type of device in an average day, with one-fifth of them using another device while concurrently using a computer. The study also found that among the users who browse the web, nearly half of them do so using multiple devices. This study highlights the importance of designing the UX in a way that allows users to get the same quality experience whether they use a computer, mobile phone or tablet, and decided to switch from one device to the other.

Most UX designers today tend to take a mobile-first approach, however, some overlook the fact that their users may search for something from their Smartphone and pick up their browsing, researching and purchasing activity on a desktop or tablet. Investing time and resources to ensure that users receive a great experience across various devices should be a priority with the objective being the ability for the user to easily switch between their devices.

Tying these design principles together

By ensuring that your design process remains focused on the end-user, you can better shape the UX and create a seamless and enjoyable online experience that fulfills their needs. Using personas and following the user throughout the buyer’s journey will help you better understand these requirements and ask critical questions that will help keep you on track and provide the content and solutions they are looking for, which will ultimately give you a big advantage over your competitors.

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