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User Journey Vs User Flow: What is the difference?

User Journey Vs User Flow

As product owners, we all know how to use our product. But that does not mean that our users would use it the same way that we do. Each business would have different ways by which they would consume the product. For example, if you have a BI tool that automatically creates reports, the chart type of an eCommerce team might be different from that of a SaaS or even within teams, a finance team might consume different teams whereas a marketing team might consume something else. A user journey flow allows you to understand the user experience from the customer’s point of view.

What is a User Journey Map?

The user journey map is a visualization of the customer’s journey with the product and that includes multiple touchpoints. There are different formats that you can use to map a customer journey, but the timeline format gives you a holistic view. 

User journey map

Source – NNgroup

It is a great exercise for marketers and designers as it helps them visualize how the users interact with the product. A user journey offers a user-centric approach towards marketing and design. It could be literally applied anywhere ranging from the website to the product. It is used to eliminate any friction an ideal user might find in the process.   

How is a Buyer Persona different from a User Journey?

A buyer persona is not your end user. They are fictional characters that you create to understand the purchasing decision. They are ideally a team of decision-makers who get to say if the company should purchase your product or not. That said, you can create a user journey having your buyer persona in mind if they are also someone who would be using your product. Let us look at an example – Marketing Mary is a Product Marketer in a company, here she could be the decision-maker as well as the user.  Whereas CMO Catherine could just be a buyer persona and not your user.

B2B Buyer Persona

Source -UXpresia

Difference between Buyer Persona and User Journey

Buyer Persona 

  • Buyer personas are not always users, but they can be.
  • Buyer personas are more into the value that the product would bring to the table.
  • They are decision-makers and their goals are different from users.

User Journey

  • User personas focus on ease of use.
  • Helps in understanding the ultimate say the buyer persona has over making the purchase.

How to map a User Journey?

Listed below are the steps that need to be followed while mapping a user journey.

1. Choose a scope

The journey mapping could be different for different use cases. For some, it could be as simple as submitting a form on the website. For some, it could be paying a bill or signing up for a free plan. Before you go ahead and plan the path, you need to know the scope of what you are planning – what is the final goal that you want the user to do.

2. Create a user persona

User maps are an extension of buyer personas. The journey should always be focused on one user, for example, if your buyer persona is a marketing Mary, your product is a BI tool and your scope is to create a funnel chart, you should think from Marketing Mary’s point of view.  

To understand how Marketing Mary would think, you need to survey real marketers who are likely to create a funnel chart. You need to conduct contextual interviews with them and analyze the results. 

3. Define scenario and user expectations

Next, you need to define the scenario and the expectations that the user might have. For instance, the scenario here could be to view the conversion rate and the expectation might be to get it done in 5 minutes.

4. Create a list of touchpoints

Here you need to map every touchpoint that the user has before attaining the scope. For instance, if the goal is for the user to create a funnel chart then the touchpoints would be something like – Need to create a report- searches for a tool online – signs up for the product – adds the data – sees if the chart type is available and so on. 

5. Take user intention into account

Again, the intent of each user can be different. You need to find out what motivates the user to use your product. For Marketing Mary it could be the ease of use, or maybe she needs the numbers for an upcoming meeting or the difficulty of using an excel platform.

To understand the intention and map the journey you need to know the following:

  • Why are they trying to do it?
  • Where is the interaction taking place?
  • What are the steps taken by users?
  • What are the challenges the users are facing?

6. Sketch the journey

Now that you have all the information that you need, start sketching the user journey. There are a lot of tools available in the market that will help you do this. Storyboard, Canva are a few tools that you can use. Listed below is an example of a journey done using Storyboard. 

Journey using Storyboard

7. Bonus – Create an empathy mapping

An empathy map is a collaborative visualization that helps in articulating what we know about a particular buyer persona. It helps in understanding the needs of the user and use that information to make decisions. Empathy maps help you resonate with the user.

 It helps you understand:

  1. Who are you emphasizing with?
  2. What do they need?
  3. What do they see?
  4. What do they say?
  5. What do they do?
  6. What do they hear?

Source: Dave Gray

Examples of User Journey

  1. 1. Purchasing a New car
Customer Journey Map - New Car Shopping

Source – NNgroup

  1. 2. Booking an Airbnb
AirBnb Booking

What Is User Flow?

User flow is a prototypical path that the user takes to perform an action. It is more like a series of steps that need to be followed in a website or App. For example, how would you sign up for a Gmail account is a user flow. It would just contain a series of steps that need to be followed wherein User Journey, you would understand the user who is trying to create an account, why they are doing that, and so on. 

User Flow

Source – Justinmind

The Role Of User Flow

The user flow is mainly used to write guides and build designs that help the customers traverse through your application. Understanding the user flow plays an integral part in mapping the user journey. 

A good user flow case should answer all of these questions

  • What is the user trying to accomplish?
  • What is important and what will give them the confidence to continue?
  • What additional information do they need to accomplish the task?
  • Does the user have any hesitation in following the steps?

For example, let us say you are trying to optimize a checkout and the checkout does not have any information on shipping but just says “Shipping charges extra”. This could be a possible friction point where users might churn out, because how do you know what the shipping charge is? Let us see how this answers the above questions:

  • What is the user trying to accomplish? 

To purchase the product. 

  • What is important and what will give them the confidence to continue?

They need to know what the product does and probably a few testimonials and case studies from users who have already used the product.

  • What additional information do they need to accomplish the task?

Shipping information and delivery date.

  • Does the user have any hesitation in following the steps?

Yes, the shipping information is not calculated automatically. 

Examples of User Flow

You can create a user flow for almost anything, listed below are a few examples.

  1. Login
Login - User Flow
  1. 2. Purchasing Fyle Fit yearly subscription
Flye Fit Subscription - User Flow

Key takeaways

  • Buyer personas are not always users, but they can be.
  • User journey focuses on the ease of use whereas the user flow focuses on the steps.
  • The user journey is more about the state of mind of the user to achieve the goal whereas the user flow is showing the best possible routes to achieve this.

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