Don’t Make a Journey Map: 9 archetypes of good / bad, and how to decide what to use

This is a rough transcript of my Big Design conference talk Don’t Make a Journey Map: when good tools go bad.

Expectation setting

This is not going to be
• Aspirational
• A formula or rules to follow
• How to make journey maps

This is going to be
• Utilitarian
• A review of common journey map archetypes (good and bad)
• How to maximize success when journey mapping

What’s with all the hype?

I’m hoping this content will help us all (myself included) move into the Plateau of Productivity.

What is this thing again?

A journey map is a visual representation of research that captures experience over time.

That’s it.

What is a journey map? Explained in an image.

Why is this important?

Journey maps can do a lot of good stuff for your work.

What’s the problem?

There are many types of journey maps.

The six types of journey maps

In order of prevalence.

Warning: this is going to be a lot of content.

Like, a lot.

Example of a Product/Service Experience journey map.

Why this Product/Service Experience example works

  • Focused story: has clear informational hierarchy
  • Understandable scope: looks at the end-to-end experience in enough detail to be meaningful
Example of a Channels & Touchpoints journey map.

Why this Channels & Touchpoints example works

  • Focused story: tells a simple story simply
  • Understandable scope: matches customer actions to capabilities of the business
  • Grounded in project needs: makes next steps obvious
Example of a Persona’s Narrative journey map.

Why this Persona’s Narrative example works

  • Understandable scope: includes only the most relevant details
  • Grounded in research findings & project needs: builds empathy by giving a human face to a common experience

Note: other journey maps can include a persona.

Example of a UX Flow journey map.

Why this UX Flow example works

  • Focused story: mini-flow that ties interaction directly to the user’s goals
  • Believable: humanizes interface decisions but doesn’t suggest unlikely actions

Note: these are usually minimal-polish working diagrams

Example of an Emotional journey map.

Why this Emotional example works

  • Focused story: ties together opportunities and pain points very simply and clearly
  • Believable: brings the research to life in a lighter weight way
Example of a Blueprint journey map.

Why this Blueprint example works

  • Understandable scope: provides a holistic view, for only one part of the service
  • Grounded in research: emphasizes the number of technologies and players involved back stage

TL;DR! Can you summarize this for me?


A chart of the six common types of journey maps.

What makes a journey map “good” or “bad”?

The following qualities tend to determine whether a journey map falls into a good or bad archetype.

The qualities of good and bad journey maps. I think you can figure out which is which.

Let’s look at 3 archetypes of bad journey maps

…and what tool(s) would have been better.

Why this Persona’s Narrative example doesn’t work

  • Scope creep. No one can effectively process 18 journey maps.
  • Lack of focus. Rigor is important, but completion for the sake of completion (without strategic rationale) tends to end badly.

The right tool for the job?
A workshop. Involve stakeholders to help clarify problem(s) being solved, prioritize the critical journeys, and find overlaps that eliminate the need to map everything.
A set of 1–3 journey maps that have clear focus and intent.

Why this Product/Service Experience example doesn’t work

  • Scope creep. It seems intended to cover all possible actions.
  • Lack of focus. Does not have a clear story or intent.
  • Ungrounded. It’s not user-focused or business-focused, and though it’s for a product/service, it’s unclear which one.

The right tool for the job?
A report. A taxonomy of archetypes would better record all possible actions.
A game. An activity with a cross-functional team would better inspire ideas within a cross-brand current state.

Why this Blueprint example doesn’t work

  • Scope creep. Too many journey maps with too much detail.
  • Lack of focus. No hierarchy or story, and no rationale for why there are so many.
  • Disconnected from real people, and from project needs. People are represented as paragraphs of text, and there are no clear takeaways.

The right tool for the job?
Scenarios. A lightweight set of narratives to capture and explore potential variations, which could then be prioritized.
Scoped blueprints. After prioritization of scenarios, blueprints could be used to dig into the details of 1–3 small, specific areas.

Ok, fine. What can we learn?

Some guidelines for making journey maps

Here’s an example

Those two questions above? I use them before and during making a journey map. Here’s an example of where I landed, using this approach.

Reality check

Even though this was an enormous amount of content, it’s still not everything. Journey maps don’t fall cleanly into these archetypes — all of them can be hybridized!

The 6 types of journey maps can be hybridized endlessly.

If you only take one thing away from what you’ve seen here, take this:

Know what kind of journey map you are making, and why.
Don’t make a journey map just to make one.

Hopefully this is the last thing I will write about journey maps!

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store