visualization of power point slides on grey background

Ask Marc – about presenting journey maps

September 17, 2021

In this webinar, we talked about presenting customer journey maps: How to approach different audiences, how to tailor journey map details to stakeholder groups, and about types of visualizations and exports for different use cases. After watching this session, you’ll know how to use journey maps as boundary objects to bridge organizational and communicational silos.

This series was initiated as a place for you to learn more about service design and journey mapping software. Our co-founder Marc Stickdorn and the Smaply team share their experience on how to embed and scale service design in organizations. The sessions usually kick off with a short introduction to the focus topic to bring everybody to the same page, followed by your questions and deep discussions of best practice examples.

On this page you find the recording as well as the transcript. Additionally this session is also available as a podcast on Spotify, iTunes and Google Podcasts.





One thing I talked about quite often in this series is what are the different use cases of journey maps. I like to talk about three different use cases of journey maps, the first one is workshop maps. These are the maps you co-create during a workshop, often for research purposes or prototyping purposes usually you don't take these maps further. You document it, maybe you take a photo of that, but you want to do it to take some key insights out of that and that's it.

visualization of the 3 different use cases of journey maps: workshop maps, project maps and management maps

When we talk about presenting maps, we probably talk rather about the two other use cases, first the project map. These are the maps you use within one project where you start with current state maps and then develop future state maps and so on.

The third use case are management maps, and these are the maps that are not only for one project, but that you use consistently in an organization. They are to be used beyond one project but used to visualize loads of different projects. We're also going to talk about different export formats that I think might be nice to know.

visualization of a pdf as an export format for journey maps in smaply

The most traditional format besides posters on the wall I think is a poster format to plot out a journey map. Now this can get long, maybe several meters. You can add loads of data on it, which is great for co-creation. Hang it up in the office and you can also focus on specific aspects of a journey.

visualization of an emotional journey as an export format for journey maps in smaply

Here we see the emotional journey export, what we call it. You use the emotional journey as the leading visual element in an export, it's visually really appealing and you can see immediately what's positive, what's negative in the map. But it also minimizes the information around it because you want to focus on the key story here. The key message you want to bring across is usually what is good and what is bad.

visualization of an HTML as an export format for journey maps in smaply

You can also visualize journey maps as an HTML, so as a website. That's often useful, if you keep on updating maps or if you use a map as a dashboard for example. It's another export format that you can do with Smaply too.

visualization of a presentation as an export format for journey maps in smaply

Another format is to export a map not as one consistent map but each step has one slide that you can use in PowerPoint or google slides or keynote or else. This is really good for storytelling. You go through a journey step by step. And it's up to you to decide how much data you put on each of the slides, you can minimize it like in this example where you only see the key points of a story or you can add loads and loads of different data to it.

visualization of a excel as an export format for journey maps in smaply

And I have to mention it even though no one likes it, but you can also use stuff like Excel and it's still the most used software to do journey maps today. It’s not beautiful as you can see, it's just Excel. But accessibility is key and everyone in an organization can work with Excel. At least they can open it and see it, and that's a huge advantage there.

So, we're going to talk about accessibility, spreading maps. Not only presenting, but sharing them. People can work with that. And for that, tools are helpful.

The end of my intro are five quick tips on presenting journey maps:

  1. Visualize multiple journeys on one map. Don't think about the single customer journey map but think about a map with multiple customer journeys which you can use to visualize different experiences of different customer segments for example. Or customer and employee experience, or a patient and nurse/doctor experience and so on. Or you can visualize different states of the experience.
  2. Select lanes for different audiences. Tailor your maps specifically for different audiences. Think about who is going to look at that map and don't overwhelm them.
  3. Split journey maps into sub journeys. You can link journey maps into each other with Smaply and that is also great to present maps. That’s because you don't overwhelm them with one massive map, but you have different focus areas that you can dig deeper into.
  4. Add research data and link to sources. Think about the credibility of your maps. If your map is based on research, show it! Add some research data, some quotes from customers, some screenshots. If you can add links like research reports, raw data, this is always helpful.
  5. Add live data to make your map a living document. Especially if you think of exporting maps as a website, as an HTML version. Adding live data to it and adding data that constantly gets updated shows folks that this is not a deliverable. it's not a thing that you put out there once and then you're done, but that it is constantly updated and worked on.

At what point in the innovation project should you start presenting maps?


You can present the map at any stage, just keep the goal of it in mind. Why are you presenting and to who? Who's the audience? If the audience is your internal team, the project team, then it might make sense to do it very early in the project, because you're working together on that. You're developing it further. There is a difference in the audience. If the audience is not your internal team, external but maybe  within your organization, it might be your internal sponsor, a decision maker or a different department. The use case of the journey becomes different because then you use a journey not to keep on working on it but you use it as a document to explain something, to communicate, to convince someone. These maps should include less information, you don't want to show all the research data that you have. That might be on the internal map. Here you want to reduce the information with a clear focus, probably early in the project you want to present research data to show pain points and needs of users and soon. Later in the project you rather present future state maps. This is the future vision, where we want to go.

In the beginning, probably rather internally and later on externally. As soon as you present externally, add some love to the maps to make them visually appealing and clear. What is the message you want to bring across?


When you're presenting early in the process and it is about the power of the storytelling and keeping it quite succinct. To get everyone on board and to get a point across it can be helpful to create a mini map. That is just four or five steps telling the story of one pain point. You can keep them really tiny. You can show them to your audience, it's small and clear and gets the point across. It just shows what our customers are going through.


Absolutely. Sometimes it makes sense to decide on purpose on a crappy map. Just some post-its on the wall, because you don't want to raise the expectations too high. At some stage also think about the fidelity of the map. And what are you aiming for? If you're aiming for feedback for very big general questions, something like “Is that concept in general a good one? Should we take this further?”, then the map should look crappy because then you get feedback on the big questions.

If you show very polished maps people will have a hard time to give you that sort of feedback because of the ugly baby bias. If friends of you have an ugly baby, you would never tell them that the baby is ugly. So if you invest a lot of time in your map, it's your baby. And people will not tell you that you have an ugly baby, then we only get answers for details.

How do you deal with all the different map views? Do you have one that you can filter interactively or do you create a new document every time you need to present to a specific audience? Like, one map but five different documents.


Filters, that is one of the big advantages that you have in Smaply. In this software you can have loads and loads of lanes, and you can hide or show the lanes. By that you can tailor a map to a specific audience. At some point it might make sense to split up a map in a different version, to keep that moment in time. Or to let people work on a subset or similar. But in general it’s a good idea to try to keep the data synchronized in one place and tailor the exports.  

Maps easily become very big; how do you make sure to not overwhelm people?


One tip is to split maps in sub maps.

There are two answers to that, on the one hand it depends on the length of a map. The length of a map means how many steps you have on the map if that becomes really long, if you have 50 or 60 steps it's probably too long to grasp. In that case it makes sense to split it into sub journeys. Have one overarching journey, a high level map and rather have zoom in maps for different stages in there.

Besides the length of the map the other dimension is the depth of the map. How much data do we put on there? How many lanes of data make sense? That is something that you can tailor to different audiences by showing or not sharing a certain lane.

Can you save different export views to regularly show to different stakeholders?


Working on that. It's on our roadmap to save different perspectives and get back to that and use it for different exports.

How do you choose which medium to present a map in? (PDF/PowerPoint etc.)


One thing is accessibility. Do you just want to present it or do you want people to work in that? If you just want to present it, formats like PDF, HTML are good formats. If you want to include others to work on the map, probably sharing a comment link or including them as users in Smaply is the better option.

If you work with different departments who can't access Smaply or you don't want to share a comment link, then it makes sense to think about programs like Excel, where people can share it and still open and work on it.

In your opinion, why is Excel not a very popular tool in service design?

I love using excel in my service design work. I’ve used it to build a website prototype and it worked beautifully. I see it as a powerful tool in service design, but I don't see it's often used by service designers. Marc mentioned it to be used in journey mapping, which is great to have mini maps and different worksheets for instance.


The main reason is, it's not made for journey mapping. What I love about Excel is the accessibility. You can do a lot of things in Excel, you can link to it, you can have different spreadsheets, you can really nicely use it. But it lacks levels of visualization. I don’t think you can create convincing documents with Excel, I think there it breaks. But to work within a team it works. It's not beautiful, but it works.


At some point it might work really well, like you said for a smaller team to get on the same page. Agreeing on the data and bringing everything together. What might cause it to break is when you have to socialize what you've learned and get buy-in from a broader audience. It's hard for people to get excited about an excel sheet, whereas an interesting visualization can tell the story behind it and get buy-in.


I heard once at a conference the quote “It's hard to have empathy with cell C13.”

I believe that’s true but internally I think Excel is fine.

How can you present the main changes of different experiences? Like future state versus current state.


In my intro presentation I talked about visualizing multiple journeys on one map. Typically, this is used for different customer segments, that are visualized through different personas or comparing different stakeholders, an office service like a customer with an employee or different employee roles etc. But you can also use it to visualize different states, think about the persona. Let's just do a very general customer.

You can create one persona that you call “customer pre-project”, and you create a copy of that persona and call it “customer – after project”. After that you create one journey map, you copy the journey within the same map and just alter what is different. This works very well if the earlier persona is red, the new one is green or blue, so you also visually distinguish what was the old state and what is the new state.

It’s particularly good if you add an emotional journey.

Where you see at first glance what improved, what the goals are and what we are working towards. I think that's the easiest and best way to visualize different states and the main changes of the map. Then we can really focus on that.


I'd agree and I also believe there's that difference between presenting your map and telling a story and gathering what you need. You might have your future and your current state maps as two separate maps because you've got a lot of planning data in those and you need to keep them separate. Else it's just going to be giant. But when you're trying to get that buy-in and show the comparison, it’s really useful to have them on one map and show it that way.

How do you handle personas in a presentation? Do you always need to create and present maps that include a persona?


No, you don’t. Usually, it has to do with the zoom level of the map. I think I said it a few times already, but I love to compare journey maps with maps in geography, where you can zoom out, look at the whole continent where you don't see a lot of detail.

But if you zoom out that much and you don't see any details then probably the journeys between your different personas are not much different. And there it doesn't make any sense to add complexity to the map by using different personas. You just have a persona called a customer, and that's it.

The more you zoom in into details, into certain interactions, the more you see the differences between the different customer segments. There it makes sense to use the different personas, usually on the zoomed-out map. On the end-to-end journeys, you just have two, one is a B2B, and one is a B2C. That's often where there are vast differences. But apart from that, you don't need to have a persona on every map.


I usually don't have a persona in most of my maps.

When I talk about Smaply with people and show how you can connect that persona, I talk about creating that generic persona. Often when you're working in an organization where there isn't a lot of maturity around this stuff yet, you're just trying to socialize that high level customer life cycle. You're not at the persona level quite yet.

Is it possible to zoom in and out in Smaply as you describe right now?


The zooming doesn't work like in google maps where you have a scroll wheel and you zoom in and out, but look at the linked journey map lane. It's a lane type that you can add to a map. Typically, you start with a high level map and with the link lane you can link sub-level maps into it. By that you build a whole hierarchy of maps. Here you click on a link in the map and the next zoom level opens as a separate map, that's what I mean with zoom in and zoom out.

Are there any recommended ways of presenting a map?

For example, guiding people through the steps and the narrative going across first, and then following with detailed insights later; or should you dive deep into every step right away?

It’s a common mistake that people overwhelm folks in the beginning with depth before they know the overall structure of the map. What I mean with that is, if you have a complex map with many steps, let's say 20-30 steps. You have 10 different lanes, it's a pretty big chunk of data. What often happens is that people present the first step or the first two steps, and then already go all the way into the depth of the data.

That’s when the audience loses track. What usually happens is you have loads of deep discussions around topics that are not of interest to you because your goal is something else. Maybe your goal is not interesting for anyone because it won't lead anywhere.

So rather first present the whole storyline, the structure of the map and then go deeper where it's of interest to go deeper. Presenting a map in a certain way can be used to nudge a discussion into a certain direction.

You can nudge folks into focusing on certain areas where you would like to focus on. That's a great responsibility for a designer, because how you present and create it, how the map looks obviously nudges people towards having attention to certain areas. It's an ethical question as well – do you always need to present all the data, or  do you want to nudge people into focusing on certain areas?

How do you know what elements are relevant for the audience?

I've gone broad, I’ve given everyone this sense of the end-to-end journey at a high level. How do I decide how much detail I want to go in?


Think about who will be part of the audience, what's their background, which department are they from? Which organization or silo are they in? Often when you present a map people’s feedback is: “That's nice, but it's not relevant/useful/valuable to me.”; they mean that the map doesn’t include relevant data for them. If you show a map to a specific audience, think about it before you present it. What might be relevant to one might not be relevant to another. My classic example for that is a legal department because I heard it so often in organizations: “I showed it to our legal department early in the process, but they were not interested.” Well, probably it didn't include relevant information for them. How can you make a map relevant for the legal department? What is relevant for them? Think about a risk assessment of each step, think about whether we got sued somewhere, what kind of contracts are in place, GDPR conformity, third-party tools involved, stuff like that. And suddenly it becomes a very interesting tool, and it is a boundary object that connects different departments. If you have an idea who the audience is, tailor the export to the audience because that would help you to connect with them.

What is your advice when you're presenting at a show-and-tell where everyone has been invited?


Minimize the information, don't overload them. Because if you tell it too specifically, you will get the attention of a few of the folks but not everyone, rather limit it and think really about storytelling and what makes a compelling story to listen to. They may not present a journey map as a journey map, but think about a PowerPoint presentation, where you have each step in one slide. You can really tell a story step by step like that.

Also think about the goal. If the audience is your entire organization, or a conference or similar, what is of interest to them? What is the common interest they have? Is it the pain point they have, is it creating empathy with that group of people? Try to focus on that bit. In that case I would say less is more.


I would agree, and I find it useful in that situation to focus on empathy, really focus on that user story and then dappling in different things that are happening from across the organization that are either contributing to the pain of the user that you're trying to build that empathy for, or how the pain they're experiencing is driving pain for the internal folks.

I work in government; we talk a lot about failure demand – like call centers that are extremely busy and everyone's really stressed and it's because other stuff is failing. If you can get stats on those sorts of things, they seem to land with a lot of relevance across the organization because they're high level and most people care about them.


That's a great point and I would add to that, think about raw data like interviews from real customers. Let them tell the story, instead of you sharing the story. If your journey map is based on 20 interviews and you start just like that and say that you interviewed 20 people, where eight of them said that.” People stop listening to you immediately, because the only thing they hear is: “20 interviews, that's not representative. I can't trust this.”

But if they see a video of a customer failing, or they listen into a call where something goes really wrong you create empathy. And that is really what you want to create. In design research there is this nice meme of a street with one big pothole in the middle of the street. There are three people pointing at the pothole saying “there is a huge pothole on this street.” Going with that logic, the three people who say there’s a pothole in the street are not representative. But if they see this really big pothole, they say: “Should we ask a hundred more people where this pothole is or should we just fix it?” And that is the kind of logic you want to see.

Show the data that you have and let your customers speak up.

Either through videos or through quotes. Just bring them as close as possible. We create journey maps to create empathy and that is one great way to do that.


100% I would say, when I create a map I try to have at least one or two quotes from the customer side and one or two quotes from internal staff that support the point I’m making in that step. Every time I try to not have any steps that do not have supporting quotes. It's powerful stuff.

And now, what's next?

Check out the other Ask Marc sessions about different topics of human-centric work, like multi-persona maps, creating CX insight repositories, and many more.