User experience (UX) is a website design term that evolved from user interface (UI). UX encompasses a website’s interface, but it also includes every aspect of the user’s experience on a website. One can view UX from the front, where users interact with the website, or from behind the scenes, where the designers work to maintain and improve the website.
Research demonstrates that there are many UX factors to consider, such as the importance of visual design and how it relates to the site’s ease of use or lack thereof. Moreover, a UX map can demonstrate how your site performs for your customers and whether that interaction leaves them pleased or displeased.
The UX map is a tool that can help designers improve a website’s UX by combining customer journey map ideas with a website’s layout to show readers information about how the site performs and how and where customers interact with it. The map can show areas for the designers to improve and areas of hidden treasures that are functioning beyond expectations. Researching the areas of surprising customer satisfaction can teach the website’s staff how to improve other pages.
Types of Maps
UX mapping began shortly after the inception of UX design as a concept growing out of traditional UI. Companies have long used customer journey maps to plot the routes customers take to make decisions. UX mapping combines methods used to create and apply these maps and overlays them with maps of the UI layout and interaction to create a wholly new type of map. These UX maps contain a wealth of valuable information on customers’ interactions with a website.
Because of the different types of information that UX maps can contain (and because they are still a relatively new and unexplored tool), the maps can take numerous forms. Some are flowcharts of varying complexity, showing website design elements and user interactions with them. Others are vaguer, showing areas of customer activity and inferring customer emotions and intent.
The people making the map will determine a UX map’s form. Since no single way to create such a map has yet been determined, UX designers are free to create different types of maps to best represent their needs as well as the website’s functionality and usage.
When creating a UX map, designers can draw upon techniques used to create customer journey and empathy maps. These map types have been around much longer, and we know more about the best practices for them. Both contain useful information for UX maps, but they lack information about website design – which the designer must add to create useful maps of a site’s UX.
Customer journey maps document the customer experience as consumers interact with a business. These maps plot the journey through various key points, starting with the discovery of the company and ending with a purchase (or a different endpoint for businesses that do not sell services or products). Once these points are laid out, questions are asked about the customers in them to ascertain desires, emotional states, goals, and more. The result should be a map showing how customers move through their interactions with a business that contains information on how to improve customer experience.
Customer journey maps can teach UX designers a lot about creating maps for their UX. Website designers trying to create a UX map for the first time should learn the basics of customer journey mapping and create a map that combines the information those maps contain with information about customer interaction.
Empathy maps are less involved than customer journey maps. These usually take the form of simple charts with an example customer in the middle surrounded by different quadrants containing information on their tasks, feelings, influences, problems, etc. The information contained in empathy maps can help UX designers create UX maps focused on customer needs rather than website design.
Creating a UX Map
As mentioned, UX mapping is still in its early stages. Companies are trying to figure out what information a UX map needs to contain and how it should be presented. What companies already know and agree on is that UX maps are worth making.
The steps to making a UX map as well as the maps themselves vary from company to company, site to site, and designer to designer. Because this concept is still new, the steps involved in creating a map are uncertain. However, most companies that have developed UX maps follow many of the steps involved in creating a customer journey map, modifying them only to address the consumer’s journey through a website rather than through an entire company.
The easiest way to make a UX map is to take the steps for creating a customer journey map and replacing the word “company” with “website”. In this regard, the steps become as follows:
- Create personas for the target customers. Without understanding who the ideal consumers are or what brings them to a website in the first place, the data from the site cannot be processed or utilized correctly.
- Plot the customer’s path through the website. How will a shopper interact with it? How will the customer feel on the landing page, when shopping and at checkout, for example?
- Compare customer expectations with the reality the website delivers.
- Isolate areas where you are not meeting customers’ expectations.
- Find the turning points: moments where users decide whether they want to complete their end goal with your website or find another.
The map incorporates all this information into a single layout (which can take whatever form works best for the team using it).
Buried Treasures and Hidden Dangers
Once you create a UX map, it has many uses. For starters, it helps website designers find areas that act as roadblocks to customer satisfaction. These can be web pages that do not function properly, give users the information they desire, or have good designs.
UX maps can show where websites lose customer interest and “dead pages” with little customer interaction. They can also reveal what pages receive the most attention from consumers. This information can allow website designers to prune unnecessary pages, improve bad ones, and learn from good ones.
You can plot out visitor flow as a whole in a UX map, for example. Being able to see how customers move through a website allows teams to visualize ways to improve the journey through the site. Designers can figure out ways to redirect flow to new pages or around bad ones, streamline flow to speed customers to their final goals, or slow the flow to keep shoppers in an area for a longer period.
Finally, a big benefit to UX mapping involves customer support. Any decent UX map is going to expose areas where customers are experiencing errors or have other complaints. UX designers can then go to these areas and improve them, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing the need for customer support.
While UX mapping is still in its infancy, the benefits of a good map are undeniable. The best practices to create UX maps remain largely unknown, but the basics of customer journey mapping apply to them. Use these to begin building UX maps. A designer can improve any website with the use of such a map to show where the site is successfully creating a great experience to users and where it is losing business.
(Lead image source: Unsplash – Creative Commons)