User journey: Why is it so important to get it right?

2016-09-19 12:55:52

First of all, we need to establish the difference between a ‘User Journey’ and ‘Customer Journey’. A customer journey can essentially be broken down into 3 parts:

“Awareness – Consideration – Purchase Decision”


A User Journey however takes into account the variables that take place in the periphery of the customer journey.

Identifying your various user journeys will provide valuable insights with which to speed up conversions. This is because it defines the entry points, the various routes available through your content and the abandonment points of your website visitors.

Website analytics will provide when and how users accessed your website, which content was consumed and in which order it was accessed. They will also show you how long they spent on each step they took through your website. Once this information has been tracked it can be studied and used to refine and fine-tune the user journey to maximum effect.

It is common for brands and marketing professionals to produce a ‘User Journey Map’ as it provides a highly visual way to understand the varying routes your digital landscape offers, seeing how they begin, navigate and end opens the door to better understanding.

Introduction to User journey map

Below is an example of a typical ecommerce websites user journey map:

user journey

It has to be made clear at this stage that the user journey map does not provide definitive explanations for why users leave your website, but it does identify the various entry and abandonment points. When a seasoned marketing professional takes this information and places it alongside the web analytics, problem areas can be identified for closer investigation. This will lead to a deeper understanding of the user journey.

Here are a couple of examples of the way in which this type of analysis can pay dividends:

  • If a disproportionate number of users appear to be navigating away from the checkout having not completed payment. A closer inspection of the checkout from the user perspective could identify one or more of the following-
    • Browser conflict
    • A broken button or link
    • A discount code that is not working
    • An error code when payment type is selected.

All easily fixed from a technical point of view, but it only takes one of them to remain unaddressed in order the kill sales.

  • If a product description page is hemorrhaging users there could be-
    • A loading error
    • Excessive loading times
    • A broken or blurred image  
    • An external link that is navigating users away
    • An irritating pop-up that is difficult to close  
    • It could be that a lot of users access your site via mobile devices but your pages are not mobile responsive

We will discuss these in detail later in this article but any of these issues will cause user friction.

These problems will not just frustrate users they will push them away. Not good when the competition is only ever one click away.

Identifying, highlighting and investigating these sticking points in the user journey show you where you can improve .

How to create your own user journey map

Every website has its own unique landscape. In business the main reason for the construction of this landscape is to drive your business goals. There are well over a billion websites in the world designed to perform a plethora of different tasks for myriad reasons. There are websites that impart information, entertain, create sales, share opinions, educate, and much, much more.

Each site has different goals and due to this the user journey will differ from one site to the next. There are two items that will always be of paramount importance though; these are the origin or provenance and the landing page.

Why these two items are so important comes down to the fact they can be used to understand how the visitor arrived and what they were looking for. Understanding these two things about your visitor’s means you can make deductions around why they visited, now you can strategize and shape a journey that reflects the users needs.

User origin or provenance:

This is where the user finds the link that brings them to you, it’s the search they did or the item that first sparked an interest. It could be the result of a search engine or social media search, it could be a newsletter or a banner, a microsite advert, an affiliate page or a blog. If you are internet savvy there are many ways to get found.

The landing page:

The landing page is where users actually hit your site for the first time. Did they arrive at your blog, a category page or direct to a product description?

Armed with the information on provenance and landing you can now look into the goals of your site and the actions you wish your users to take in the context of what motivated them to arrive in the first place.

Which actions can you create that will shorten the journey to your goals?

Which actions will lead the user rather than lose them?

Can you shorten the user journey?

We’ll be coming back to these shortly

How do we interpret the user journey map?


The user map above is what we’d expect to see for a typical ecommerce site.

To really interpret it, as previously mentioned web analytics tools are invaluable. They add the hot and cold spots that help identify what is and isn’t working.

An analytical approach must be taken, as any interpretation must be ‘Through a user’s eyes’ so to speak. The features of your site that trigger site abandonment may become blatantly obvious once you know where to look. Only then can they be rectified. It may be possible to simply mirror aspects of the more successful features.


Here we can identify which sources attract the highest volume of clicks.

It could be the search engine or maybe links appearing in some of your social media posts and profiles that are producing the larger part of your traffic, but it could also highlight issues too.

Relatively low search engine click through rate could indicate your SEO is failing; invisibility is not an option for ecommerce so it’s high time to invest in SEO optimization.

You will also be able to identify which routes users take to find you that result in the most conversions. If most of your conversions come from users who arrive via social media channels this would indicate you are highly engaging people so further investment may be an option.


As fully outlined in our Site Value post, reducing the users interaction costs is one of the most important aspects in retaining users in your digital space. The interaction cost is the cost in terms of time and effort that the user has to invest in your site to achieve their goal. Helping a user get to where they need to be with the minimum fuss and clicks is key. One way to shorten the user journey is to have them land on a product or category page. This will:

  1. Be of interest to them as it is why they have clicked through, and
  2. Be familiar as it is the entry point to many ecommerce sites, familiarity from past web experience means they can self identify their next step.

Site Layout

Website layout is very important; it is your retail display and the place that your high value interactions must take place. Consider it in terms of a physical store layout; the location of your main products must be both visible and readily accessible to users. Product positioning in both virtual and physical stores will have a direct impact on sales.

In order to avoid user friction, layout must be designed to be intuitive therefore reducing reducing perceived cost.

Navigation Tools

The following are standard elements that must be present on a site in order for users to find their way around and find the products they want. In order to create a smooth, frictionless user journey you need to ensure that these elements are present and done well:


  • Search Box: A search box in the top right corner is the first place many users will look to get straight to their target. They type in the first few letters and it presents them with the appropriate items. This is an easy way to make user life easy and is a familiar convenience, the absence of which causes friction very early on in the user journey.
  • Categories: A wide range of products can be good as it broadens brand appeal and can serve to generate more interest, clicks and visits. This is due to a wider range of search term results leading to your site. It is, however, a double-edged sword. A user arriving at the site presented with ‘Product Overload’ and no clear next step is unlikely to make the effort to scroll forever to locate their target; you must make this easy. Categories provide a solution. People know a ‘Couch’ will be under ‘Furniture’. Subcategories can help further reduce user friction, as people know that a ‘Couch’ is ‘Lounge Furniture’. Organizing products into categories and subcategories makes a huge product catalogue easily navigable.
  • Filters: Can be introduced where categories have reached their limitations if there are a large number of like-for-like products available. Take the ‘Couch’ example again. An option to filter by materials ‘Leather or Fabric’ followed by a selection of price bandings for those shopping to a budget, even a free delivery filter. These steps might imply more clicks but the potential buyer is actually in discovery mode here, expressing personal preferences that build anticipation for the results.
  • Descriptions: A lot of ecommerce sites have split their product description into two tabs below the product images. The product description and the technical details. This is to accomplish maximum appeal.

Some users require the technical detail only as they are looking for a solution to a specific problem. There are others that need to be sold to. For these users the product description needs to elicit an emotional response, as emotion is where their purchase trigger lives. Using warm words instead of ‘Taste’ use ‘Savor’, instead of ‘Future’ use ‘Destiny’ and so on… Splitting and clearly defining the two descriptions reduces the journey for both buyer types.

  • Product Images: The Internet is a visual experience and so is your product. The fastest way for a user to identify a product is by looking at it. Here are a few rules and tips for great image delivery:
    • Uncluttered Backdrop
    • Diffused lighting rather than flash
    • Stable, use a tripod for crystal clear shots
    • Watch the white balance so colors are crisp and clear
    • Avoid visual interruptions like props
    • Use the whole frame, no wasted space
    • Make sure the image is a link to more images
    • Enable zoom function for those who wish to see a close-up

This is not a definitive list but get’s the message across that this is a serious matter, a couple of smartphone shots will not make it.

  • Related Products: If users are not looking for a specific product, providing this option will be really helpful to them. To be able to access similar products with no effort makes their life easier. Less clicks, less effort and an overall sense that your website is attending to them makes for a more enjoyable user journey.
  • Additional/Optional Categories: These can be as varied as desired but must not be excessive; the same principle as applies to product overload applies here. A ‘What’s New’, ‘Deal of the Day or week’ for example, these categories can also be tailored for the type of product. A Jewelry site might opt for a ‘For Her’ and ‘For Him’ category which reminds the user why they are visiting the site and also introduces the emotional aspect of their visit adding purpose to their search.

When these elements are mapped into the user journey and set alongside the web analytics certain trends become clear, as mentioned earlier.

If abandonment is high on any of the above elements investigation is required. Did users abandon frequently at a certain step? Maybe it was a category option that was misdirecting them; maybe the search box produced an error message. It could highlight that, after clicking on a category and a subcategory they drifted away. This could indicate that the 3rd subcategory choice created a high perceived cost.

When investigating you may find a problem with pages taking too long to load, users will abandon if waiting is required. On the Internet patience is as rare as looking at a paper map. We now use our smartphones and still complain when it takes 2 seconds to load…

Either each high abandonment point acts as a big red ‘X’. This is where you begin your investigation.

User Journey – The Purchase

This is the final step of the user journey in terms of this individual transaction. For them to buy now and again in the future this part needs to be seamless and very user friendly. This is the most vulnerable part of your online business. It is the difference between success and failure.

Any break in the flow or user friction encountered when the user is about to part with money will trigger doubt and doubt = abandonment:

  • Types of payment: Your checkout must display clearly how safe and secure payment is and provide many payment methods. PayPal credit and debit card are the most commonly accepted and comfortable. Above all, quick and easy will reduce checkout abandonment.
  • Type of Session: Users may not be happy if you require them to enter their email address. They may go off looking for another supplier that is not so demanding, considering your site to be intrusive. If they are worried about personal info or spam they are not focused on their purchase, think about it. A guest option or social media sign-in can overcome this.

Analyzing your checkout abandonment rate if no guest option or social media sign-in is available can only produce speculation

  • Support: The checkout page as discussed is your most vulnerable spot. Having a toll-free support number or web chat support box on your checkout page provides peace of mind.
  • Thumbnails: Images on the checkout page users rather than simply a product name in text. The visual is a more emotional reminder and confirmation.
  • Shipping Fees: This is HUGE. A Deloitte study showed that 69% of online shoppers choose sites that offer free shipping. If you are, for whatever reason, obliged to charge shipping, make certain it is not perceived as a hidden cost.

If the first time the user sees shipping fees is when they reach the checkout, it will be taken as an abuse of trust. They are very unlikely to complete the purchase.

Additional Tools – Guiding the user journey

There are some excellent tools that can be implemented to navigate users through your content. Widgets can be layered over your existing website to harness users attention and influence them to consume specific content and participate in your high value activities.

Widgets are a very efficient and cost effective choice:

FunBound is great engagement technology solution. It’s a methodology that leverages the non-intrusive world of gamification by way of compelling widgets that surprise and delight users. Your content can be introduced in a dynamic and immersive manner.

Instead of having users surf over your content FunBound invites them to dive in and explore then rewards them for their participation.

This deeper interaction leads to engaged users who spend more time on site, more money on purchases and through prolonged interaction achieve a deeper bond with your brand.

Take a look a the pictures below:

                     user journey    user journey

Recovering the Abandoners


Cookie tracking is so important to getting your products where they will have the most impact:

Cookies are little files that stay on your computer following a visit to certain websites. As you surf the web visiting different sites these files build up. They only hold a small amount of information and this information is specific to the user and their visit to the website, this information can be accessed by the server or the computer itself. In this way tailored content is delivered by way of adverts and banners that are relevant to the user based on their past browsing. Look at a bike one day and bike adverts follow you around the internet right! Cookies are clever, we like cookies…

Cookies will enable you to follow the user around while they surf the web after visiting your site. You were relevant at one point and you probably will be again. Very few of us will have missed Facebook adverts, the content is always something that you have recently looked into irrespective of whether you bought or not. Cookies facilitate a direct and visual, constant reminder of your products with links to your site.

The Wish List (Newsletter opt in)

Another way to ensure that tailored adverts are being delivered so that your touch points with potential customers are optimized through their personal preferences is to introduce a wish list on your site.

In order to save and access their wish list in the future many users will be happy to create a basic login, including their email address. At this stage you can offer an Opt-in to your newsletter.

For the user, the wish list is a way to store their preferred products for convenient later use. For your business, it is the way to gain insights into their preferences and most likely purchases.

Tailoring your newsletter content (including direct links to the products) really boosts your brand’s perceived value. Using the items in their wish list is a perfect way to grab their attention with highly relevant news and information and/or new discounts. A quicker user journey can be defined in this way reducing perceived cost.

In summary

There is no ‘One-size-fits-all’ easy way to create the perfect User Journey. There is a huge amount of work and a boatload of information to be taken into account.

There are several perspectives to be considered and you must accept that your product, however good it is, will not sell unless it is highly visible and well presented.

Converting site visitors into paying customers must be the starting point when mapping your user journey and the site layout must be conducive to making this happen.

Making certain that your standard features are in place and working well. Ensuring that your checkout page is visibly safe, quick, easy and smooth to work through.

All of this adds up to many hours of dedication and tireless effort.

There is good news too though, and it comes in the form of engagement technology. Irrespective of whether you wish to make your existing site perform better or you are about to build your masterpiece. There are solutions like ‘FunBound Methodology’ that can make these things happen seamlessly without breaking the bank. Tools that will make all the difference to your bottom line.

This post is also available in: Spanish

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