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#UX / UI #Product Development

How-to: An Experience mapping in 3 easy steps


Why is UX research is similar to buying a new car and how can an experience map help your research?

You start with online research, read reviews and scan through facts sheets provided by car companies and magazines. This is basically your secondary research. Then you might chat with people that drive cars that seem to match your needs and requirements. At some point, you walk down to your local dealer and talk to the choleric sales rep with his fancy suit and the well-groomed moustache that would sell contact lenses to a blind person.

At that point, you have gathered a reasonable amount of third party data and different opinions. Nevertheless, you might still not have an idea of what it actually feels like to drive your car of desire. Therefore, it is about time you hopped into the driver’s seat and went for a spin yourself!

In short:

Some secondary research (desk research) and primary research (field research) such as user interviews, expert interviews or user observations might give you a good idea about what other people and users seem to think and feel about a process or a product. Nevertheless, and unless you are familiar with the subject you are researching, you still don’t have a first-hand understanding of what a specific service or product experience feels like. That’s where experience or emotional mappings come into the human/user centred design research process.

Experience mappings let you slip into the skin of a user, a product or service is aimed at.

It is the process of getting into the driver’s seat and experiencing the subject of your research for yourself.

Three steps to your experience map

There are three simple steps to carry out an experience mapping:

Plan your journey Go, do and observe Process and analyze your findings and conclude

Let’s look at these steps in some more detail:

1. Plan your journey

In order to get the most out of this you ought to be precise about what you want to do, why you do it and how you want to achieve your goals. Therefore plan your journey by asking yourself these questions:

WHY are you doing it? Define the ultimate purpose. WHAT do you want to find out? Figure out what the journey is you want to go through and try to define and put yourself into the mindset of an existing user (use a persona). HOW do you want to carry out and document your journey? Think of tools (camera, notebook, pen, audio recorder etc.), resources (e.g. do you need someone to give you access to something, what’s your team size etc.), a time, place or process that might be required.

2. Go, do and observe

Turn off your Mac, GET OUT OF YOUR OFFICE and walk into the real world (this might not apply if you are mapping a website process but you can still do it out of your office, and wherever a regular user would access the site ;-). Visit the place you want to visit, and try to go through the user journey the way a “normal” user would do.

This sounds easier as it is: Do not forget that you go out there with a specific mindset of observing and learning. This contradicts the mindset a regular user has when doing the same thing. Bear in mind!

Pay close attention to anything and everything and document it with audio, video, images and notes (if applicable). Apply the “see, think, feel, do” framework:

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