Experience maps, user journeys and more…

Experience Map is an important design tool to understand our product/service interactions from users’ point of view. One experience map is basically a visual representation that illustrate users’ flow (within a product or service) their needs, wants, expectations  and the overall experience for a particular goal.

UX Lady Experience Map

Besides Experience Maps, different names are used to refer to similar representations, some of them are: Customer Journey, User Journey and some time Blueprint or Service Ecology, although there are some nuances in the latter two, I prefer to include them in the group of the multidimensional maps.

If you search the internet you will see that there are many different examples of experience map, with some common elements between them. After reviewing many of them, investigate the existing methodology and design one for the company I work for, I have reached the conclusion that there are some design patterns, more or less clear, here I will share with you some insights about them. Check my post DIY Experience Maps were I explain how to make an Experience Map from scratch based on the layout I’m using at work .

The differences and similarities between them can be summarized in three aspects:

  1. Graphic visualization of the information. What I call here layout.
  2. Content: Elements included in the experience map. Although most maps have similar elements, some designs vary in the focus they make on one content above others.
  3. Complexity. Simple or multidimensional experience maps.
Content and complexity are the two most important factors to consider when choosing between a layout or another.


Experience Maps basic layout  

experience map layoutThere are two main types of representation: The classic timeline (with horizontal or vertical reading) Where touchpoints are located over a path timeline organized from left to right (horizontal) or Top-bottom (Vertical). This is the one I normally use, basically because is easy to read for everyone. (E.g. well known Starbucks Experience Map)

And the wheel layout where interaction phases are more relevant than touch points, used mainly for reflecting a product or service overall experience. Interaction phases are the main structure. The Cons are the limited detail. Pros?: Usually are more simplified models, allowing greater scope of a system or service. (E.g. The Lego wheel, Telephone Service from MMR Strategy)

Choosing the right layout for your experience map is a key point. The success and clarity of your Experience Map will depend largely on choosing the right layout and graphic elements.

Starbucks Experience Map

Starbucks Experience Map

Lego wheel Experience Map

Lego wheel Experience Map


Content common
 across most of Experience Map are:

  • Experience Map elementsUser needs /experience triggers.
  • Experience phases.
  • Mental status (E.g. Attention, Attitude, Motivation, Mood, etc.)
  • User emotions, thoughts, feelings and reactions during experience.
  • Interaction connection type
  • User Activity / interaction (represented by touchpoints mainly)
  • System actions (interaction from system point of view)
  • Touchpoints: Interaction points; pain points; delight points.
  • Persona and Scenario resume.
  • System opportunities and service barriers.
  • The path (journey sequence)

Some Experience Maps focus on user emotions,  others on interaction phases  and system actions. For Softonic I focus on user emotions and thoughts, merging both on balloon messages.


A simple Experience Map only reflects one possible path during one scenario. For example Customer Journey Map through Red & White grocery store or Journey Map from effective UI bellow.

Simple time-line experience map

while a complex Experience Map could encompass cross platform experiences or experiences occurring at different time sessions/scenarios as Kuudes.fi service design concept for Helsinki City Library or nForm example of a cross-chanel experience.

Multidimensional Exp Map

Multidimensional Experience Map

Also depending on how broadly before and after moments outside our system interaction are detailed or the detail degree of the different components will contribute to the resulting complexity.

Summarizing, a basic Experience Map just follow one path -one user, one goal, one scenario and one path- even when you know the system allows multiple path variations. Add multiples reading dimensions, or reflecting different personas path on the same flow, adds complexity to the experience map.

How to choose one layout?

The right layout for your Experience Map will depend mainly on:

  • The amount and richness of the content resulting from the preparation phase – As number of touchpoints of opportunities, interaction types, devices involved, etc.-

  • And in what aspects do you want to put more emphasis: In the touchpoints? The system interaction features/functions? Emotional factors of the experience? etc.

Timeline is the most common layout, probably because it is also a traditional narrative model, easier to understand and follow for all types of people. Unless the complexity of your project requires it, I recommend you use this layout.

Including elements on the layout…

Finally, another important aspect to be consider is how to integrate different elements on the final design in order to achieve a harmonious, easy to read map.

Here you can see as I organize items in a timeline layout:

a- Path, touchpoints and connection type: Use arrows to ilustrate connection type between touchpoints (First from left to right is a controlled evaluation, between e and f we see a direct connection). I use letters to level each point and easily add reference on the bottom of the experience map.

Experience Map elements

b- System interaction and actions. I use icons to illustrate the action is taking place (functionality, content section, etc)

c- Include outside system stages. I use a different background to mark interactions that take place outside the system I’m modelling.

d- I use balloon messages to illustrate persona think-aloud about the experience through interaction. I also use red or green color when there is a negative or positive impact.

Experience Map elements think aloud balloon UX Lady

e- Finally I illustrate the different mental status and moods using a scale or emoticons depending on the focus I want to make.

Experience Map user mental status

User mental status with emoticons Experience Map

Here you have my own design for a timeline Experience Map with all the elements:

Experience Map timeline UXLady

Check my post DIY Experience Maps to find details and procedures about this layout.

66 thoughts on “Experience maps, user journeys and more…

  1. Pingback: DIY Experience Map | UX Lady

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  3. No one has commented on this (for some reason), but this is an outstanding overview of experience maps. Thank you so much for all the detail, and the hi-res screenshots! As someone doing UX full-time for the first time, it’s very helpful.

    I really like the “effective (Sarah’s Broadband Journey) example, simple and elegant.

  4. Pingback: Experience maps, user journeys and more… | UX Lady | Consumer Technik

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  10. Hi this is a great overview of how to layout a user journey but is there a clearer image of this as its very blurry?

  11. I have been researching Experience Maps for work and among all the examples and articles out there found this one the most educational. I am completely inexperienced in this and this post have given me so many ideas. Thanks for putting this together. Very helpful.

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  14. This term I’m using your examples and explanations as a supplement to a lecture on understanding journey frameworks. I especially appreciate how you have clearly illustrated the common elements used in a Experience Map with examples. THANKS!

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  16. I really appreciate the way you make complex things simple and easy to understand! I think your blog is very educative and supports any professional who wants to learn more or better how to use these tools.

    I have a doubt/question… More and more agencies and studios are popping up with different names for the same tool and I often find it confusing. Customer journey, user journey, experience map… to me these are names of similar tools.
    In my opinion a customer journey and a user journey are the same thing, and they focus on a persona only, but they can still get complex if they refer to a multichannel experience.
    An experience map is different since it is not following the perspective of a singular persona, but helps in describing all the possible paths.

    Would you agree with this?

    • Thanks for your comment Alessandra.
      I think what you say has all the sense, but I not quite sure everybody is using it those expressions in that way.
      Any way I must agree with you, good observation :)

  17. Excellent article and examples!
    BTW I never understood how Starbucks managed to succeed seeing the complexity of their user journey… The waiter actually has to note down your name on the cup for future reference in the process! But their seats are comfortable.

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  20. This is an excellent post. Nice work summarising this topic, and for giving me some food for thought. There are some well considered layout ideas here, which I love.

  21. Thank you for this wonderful information. I’m working on an experience map to get demonstrate steps to get from one job to another…i.e. recruiter to Sr. Recuiter to Recruitment Manager. Is there a certain format you would recommend?

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    • Hi Tim,

      My team is working on a tool for creating user journeys – uxpressia.com. Silvana’s articles were a great inspiration for us btw. You can check it out, I would appreciate your feedback.

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  27. This is very neat and simple. I like the Starbucks time line that you have posted , Moreover the content that you have given here helps to understand and think with ease for a beginner like me in the UX field.
    Great Job :) Thank you

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  31. This is fantastic, really nice pulling together of some diverse experience & journey maps, thanks. (PS Found you in a google image search for Experience Maps, looks like Google rates you too).

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  39. Thank you for providing information for us
    I have two questions to ask you
    1、mood=satisfied-confident?how to explain?。。。。
    2、how do the state variables decide mood? Is there a formula?


  40. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on this post. Very helpful. You got a new follower:)
    I’ll be going through the DIY of Experience maps now.
    By the way, 3 images were missing in the “including elements in the layout”, would you mind checking them please.



  42. I’m an Industrial Designer student and you don’t know how helpful is this to understand the facilities of the Experience Map better. Thanks for the post (:

  43. Hi could you please help me out with an example of customer journey map for on line store. I don’t want to copy especially since I will have a specific target group but just want to see the logic behind.Thank you in advance and thank you for such a great article.

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  45. I just like the helpful info you provide for your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your blog and take a look at once more right here
    regularly. I am rather certain I’ll learn a lot of new stuff
    proper here! Best of luck for the next!

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