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Experience Map: a designer tool to reveal sticking points in user patterns


Today, Mathilde, Lead Designer for FABERNOVEL INNOVATE tells us about the experience map, a strategic tool to identify what new user experiences to design, and to concentrate efforts where there is a real need.

The Experience Map: What is it for?

The experience map represents the current experience your clients go through when using one of your products or services: its points of interest, but also its sticking and breaking points. For example, this experience can mean subscribing to an insurance or banking service, visiting a museum, buying a second-hand vehicle, and even what collaborators in your company experience.

It is a representation method often used by designers: it shows one big picture so you can grasp the wealth and diversity of the patterns. It makes naturally complex and elusive human experiences more tangible.

At FABERNOVEL INNOVATE, we use this tool at the very beginning of a project: it summarizes the exploration and diagnosis phase of the current experience.

It then gives a direction to design activities throughout the project.

Step in the user’s shoes and transcribe their experience for all to see in a usable and understandable form.

We say it time and again: nowadays, we need to go “user-centric”, we need to think in your clients’ steads to offer them THE best experience: smooth, simple, omnichannel…

So we need to know what your users experience. The experience map allows us to see that: it is designed after doing some field research, and it illustrates the experience as it is lived by your users. We follow the patterns they draw by interacting with your product or service. It aims at representing the whole of the interactions allowed by the myriad of connection points offered to your clients, to transcribe their actions but also their reactions and feelings towards these sticking points.

By embracing the experience as a whole, that is without separating physical (call center, agency, etc.) and digital (website, mobile apps) contact points, it reconciles the online and offline worlds.

It then becomes a reference framework, internally shared, that allows an alignment of your teams and of your different trades.

Reveal experience key-moments

By adopting their point of view and by focusing on sticking and breaking points, the experience map enables you to identify the points to unblock or correct in order to optimize the experience and to show the gaps between your internal perception and what your clients really experience: indeed, mapped patterns are often quite different from those you may have conceived and implemented.

For example, the map of this purchase pattern of a high-tech product, which we have mapped out for a client, allowed us to show the potential buyer’s confusion in the face of such a range diversity, when the brand thought it had already much rationalized its product catalogue.

It also reveals territories to explore, areas where experiences coming from opportunistic or avant-garde users emerge.

In this purchase pattern, we have revealed a key-moment the brand had neglected or not invested in: potential buyers carefully prepare their list of criteria before starting any research. These did not appear to match the filters displayed on the websites or the questions asked by a salesman in store.

In a nutshell: the 3 values of the experience map

  1. To create a reference framework shared by your teams regarding user experience (and really focused on/conceived about the user)
  2. To develop a knowledge of your clients’ behaviors, practices and needs in the different channels
  3. To identify opportunities in order to innovate with a native UX orientation.

Conceive your experience map: how to make it and use it?

There are 4 steps to formalizing your experience map:

  1. Discover what your users truly experience
  2. Reveal and pave the way to follow
  3. Tell and illustrate the story
  4. Share and use this map. And unite.

Step 1: Discover what your users truly experience

Let us say it again: at first, it is about embracing the experience as a whole, to understand how and why your users interact with such or such contact point.

The method is quite simple:

  • Start off by talking to your clients, on the field, by adopting a new vision and a benevolent, curious, and willingly naive position, leaving aside all figures, and quality studies you may have in your possession.
  • Perform all actions or processes yourself from end to end: count the number of clicks, take photographs, screenshots or write down – word for word – what strikes you.
  • Do not try to draw any hasty conclusion or to synthesize it. Rather, collect rigorously: organize research based on experience steps, contact points or target user, for example.
  • All of it will not be in the final map but you will have acquired an essential knowledge base of your clients’ needs.


Step 2: Reveal and pave the way to follow

It is now about correlating all of your observations. Be careful: you are not looking for consensus, but rather for a relevant and revealing angle that will shed light on key-moments of the experience, and sticking points it would be interesting to solve!

The framework of a map – its structure – is three-fold:

- User pattern: identify the steps and describe each user action by showing contact points, interactions, and also what users feel.

- Sticking points: for every step, list all difficulties you faced.

- Opportunities identified for the design of new services or products.

Step 3: Tell and illustrate the story

You have correlated your data, modelled the key-moments of the experience, and chosen your angle. It is now about making it shareable and understandable to the many.

The aim is to make a poster, which is a lasting, highly visual communication medium that will become a really strategic and modern tool to inspire and guide your future works.

Before you start illustrating your map, you need to make some choices regarding what will and will not appear on it: showcase opportunity areas, choose the story you want to tell, and thus rank information according to that silver lining.

Step 4: Action!

Work is only beginning. This map will help you plan the actions to implement according to your users’ needs.

Print it, show it around and let everyone on the inside get familiar with it.

By sharing this designer tool, you unite your teams, your trades, and your company in one ambitious objective: to rethink your user experience.