Journey Driven Design

How to craft better experiences by making the design process follow users in their customer journey

Every product should be one step ahead of the user in order to provide them with a right experience and lead him through their desired customer journey.

User experience and products overall are not easy to be designed, launched and maintained. There are many interwinding factors like the user’s needs, expectations, habits, company business goals, other products and many, many more that make the designer’s work challenging. For our goals to be met it’s often a long way till we find a sweet spot of how we can address the users, our superiors or clients and obvious time & resource constraints.

Considering the above, it’s always better to start with the well-researched user journeys which often become the most important guidance designers use while trying to find effective solutions. In such case, every product should be one step ahead of the user in order to provide them with a right experience and lead him through their desired customer journey. The interesting question to this is how often does our design process actually mirror such behavior?

Let’s take the mobile apps as an example. During my career, while working on many projects with many designers & clients I’ve noticed that it is very common to start the product’s interface design with the most content heavy parts like timelines, feeds, user profiles, etc:

Source: Apple App Store

But what the user actually sees while experiencing the app for the first time is quite different:

Source: Screenshots
Just imagine how different would you approach those initial experiences considering such paradigm shift.

So how does this apply to the first-time user journey, when we start to design their experience from the middle, not from the beginning? Should an empty, default state only inform the user that he has no tasks? Is a simple CTA button sufficient? Maybe it would be a better option to create an exemplary task that would encourage him to engage with the app even more? Or how are screenshots affecting how potential customers see the app while browsing the store? Those are the questions that are rarely asked, but bring a whole new perspective on the topic.

Of course, all of the initial interaction parts such as user onboarding, account creation, tutorials, and other things meant to guide people through our product are designed in the end as well, but it is done usually much later than the „most important” parts of the app. Just imagine how different would you approach those initial experiences considering such paradigm shift. Being exactly on the same page as the user has some very interesting advantages:

Better understanding of the user’s goals and possibilities at the every step of their way.

The prototype test clearly showed that users are not interested in inviting friends right away, but they want to get to the photo upload functionality as soon as possible.

Better control of the user flow, because you don’t have to go back in your thinking about previous steps.

Right now the user is at the the tutorial, and just went through the account creation. This means we can already show his photo and personalize the experience.

Better ability to discover what would work best as the next step of the their journey.

Are the users ready to see the app’s timeline? What should be shown there initially? How can we engage people in after this step? Maybe users should follow other accounts and update their profile first?

Designers always strive to put themselves into the customer’s shoes, so why not make this experience even more immersive?

Of course all of the above can be reached without exactly following the user journey in our design process, but it certainly makes those kinds of questions to appear more quickly and gives us a great heads up. Designers always strive to put themselves into the customer’s shoes, so why not make this experience even more immersive?