The customer journey–how a user moves from “need” to “end goal”, and how users interact with your product–comprises many different steps, or touchpoints. Let’s take a closer look and see if we can glean a better understanding of them.
What Are Touchpoints?
Touchpoints are the various steps in the broader customer journey map; they can be both digital and physical points. We have a particular user, an end goal, and an experience or feeling around each touchpoint (e.g. “pay a bill”, “frustrated”). In my experience, when drawing out a customer journey map, including a key quote and different channels is also invaluable. For example, paying a bill might be done through bpay, credit card, PayPal etc.
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A Real World Example
Let’s see how customer journey mapping and touchpoints might slot into the design process. Discovery comes first, and depends on your assumed knowledge, experience in the domain, plus whether you’ve done any research or spoken to any stakeholders.
The best place to start is to speak to stakeholders, something you’ll likely be doing whilst trying to collect business requirements anyway. Book in some time with them and get an understanding as to who their key users are, who they’d like to focus on for the project and what the scope of that project is.
I’m going to use the example of a fictional construction company website. This work is based on an actual project I worked on, but I’ll be concealing sensitive details.
There may be many user groups that this stakeholder is interested in targeting (such as defence government, civil government, property development, potential employees and so on). It’s easy to get caught up in the website, but first, let's understand their user goals and how they exist with the current product offering.
Plotting the Customer Journey Map
It often helps to start with what you know. In the example above each of these user groups is quite specific to the industry. However, “potential employees” could be applied across different domains. Potential employees are people looking to be recruited, so they arrive at the website with a specific need.
Before any research has taken place, creating a customer journey map based on your existing understanding of this scenario has the following advantages:
- It sets expectations with stakeholders as to what you will be doing.
- It builds initial momentum, whilst you are still planning and setting up interviews. Often there’s a very tight deadline—you really want to minimise the amount of time you spend waiting around.
- It gives the stakeholder some context. i.e. user research needs to be undertaken to create these outputs, interviews in order to understand the domain.
Types of Touch Points
You can see above that each touchpoint across the top is a step in a larger process. Each touchpoint may fit into a different category (illustrated by the sticky notes) such as linear, non-linear/time based or non-linear/ongoing. For example, being “aware” is a linear touchpoint.
Physical vs. Digital
Each touch point in the customer journey map will take place, both in the real world, and also facilitated through some user interface. A physical channel, for example may be word of mouth. A digital channel may be through Facebook advertising.
It is important to take a step back from digital to get a holistic understanding of the user’s goals and journey and how you can craft the experience to create an efficient experience.
Quantitative data can be used to help you uncover touchpoints. For example, Google Analytics has user journey information and drop off points which you can analyse fairly easily. One caveat is that your website should be relatively simple, otherwise you’ll need the help of some analytics specialists to help you set up more specific goals.
Continuing with the construction company example, we can see below from a simple analysis of geographic regions there is significant segmentation between Sydney and Brisbane geographic regions. Imagine the client has stated that Sydney is predominantly focused on property development, whereas Brisbane is focused on its defence contracts. Tying what you see in the analytics with what the stakeholder says helps give a solid groundwork to start your UX work from.
Using this information you can also debunk claims made by other parties and hold a stronger argument on your designs, based on solid data rationale.
- LinkedIn - 16.18%
- Facebook Mobile - 6.77%
- Facebook - 5.56%
- thorntoncentral.com.au - 4.51%
- Yahoo Search - 3.76%
- defencecharityball.com.au - 3.01%
- services.bciaustralia.com - 3.01%
- australiarealestatedirectory - 2.26%
- cordellconnect.com.au - 2.26%
- LinkediIn - 74.36%
- Facebook - 23.08%
- Pinterest - 1.28%
- Twitter - 1.28%
Using the more detailed user flow tools of GA I started to sketch out a rough user flow (through the digital touchpoints) of the website. This journey is a rough aggregate of many user journeys and shows typical entry points from either an organic search or through the home page. I sent this to the client via email in the hope that they would be able to put a user type to the journey.
Meanwhile, as I was setting up all the interviews and going along with my UX research plan. I started creating the employee persona. This persona, and user journey, was fairly generic and applicable across different industries. I sent it to the client for review.
As I had expected, the key user was pretty much on the mark, but the stakeholders argued it would be a much younger demographic. I also like to use LinkedIn, this source of secondary research is a great place to get information as to the type of brands the user is likely to follow and other indirect information on motives/goals.
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Key Task Flow
Using the customer journey map I created for the employee, from this example, I selected a key digital touchpoint to create a task flow from. Often this will be the next step after creating the customer journey map. It will be a key touchpoint you want to explore during user testing.
In this instance I was able to do this prior to extensive interviewing as the user group was more generic and applicable across industries. I also wanted to give stakeholders some context into why I needed this qualitative data.
The task flow below went through three iterations.
Some background: this shows the task flow of a user who is going to the construction company’s website to see if there are any job vacancies. My task flows reflect the different pages and decision points, the aim being to make them as efficient and realistic as possible.
Final Interview Questions
One of the challenges I had with this project–you will also come across this again and again–was getting the interviewee to answer a given question. Interviewees often kept getting drawn into giving solutions and thinking in the context of “the website”. It was somewhat difficult to elicit proper responses, but I was empathetic and kept reiterating what I was trying to achieve with the research.
The reason this will happen is because people will see you as the digital agency professional working on the “website”. The real value of doing the interviews, however, is to see how the user does their job. What are the outside factors to consider when designing the website?
Rough User Flows
I laid out a rough user flow as a preamble to my interview discussion and customer journey map. The phrases in blue are questions I had around the process that I wanted to ask the interviewer.
During discussion with the stakeholder, and equally during user interviews, it became clear that for the user groups in Defence Government and Civil Government there were no digital touch points in the journey that involved the company website. These groups assessed the stakeholder’s ability based on tender strictly. Without this research, we would actually have designed web pages of no use at all to any user!
After this insight, the stakeholder listed some of the typical users who would be engaging with the website:
- The department of education
- Lead architects
- Consultancy firms
- Building managers
- Real estate managers
- Apartment purchases
- Representatives of the defence user group
Therefore, as the scope of the UX project was framed around the creation of new pages and the digital presence of the product, it made sense to target some of these secondary groups; the innovation of user journey for most of the main users was not necessary.
In the end, we encouraged the stakeholder to brainstorm the top four users they would like us to focus on, and how these were tied to any business objectives that the organisation may have. The key stakeholder also mentioned that they had conducted separate client engagement surveys. I requested access to these, so I could get as much data as possible to assist during the creative process.
Understanding the touchpoints and a customer journey map is integral to creating a good user experience. It is an iterative process that can be reinvestigated until you reach a point of confidence with your research, and the information you synthesise can be used to create relevant and efficient designs.
Touchpoints are both physical and digital. The importance of understanding the holistic journey can help you along the UX journey to select a key digital touchpoint, flesh it out, then create a concise user goal and set of pages to reflect this. Ultimately this will be tested through realistic and specific scenarios. I hope observing this process has given you an understanding of touchpoints and how they’re used in the wild.
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