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How to create a visually appealing journey map in 6 steps

January 26, 2022

Visual clues are extremely important when creating journey maps. We are sure that you’ve come across the idiom “a picture says a thousand words”, which in the case of journey mapping proves to be true. Humans are brilliant at understanding and empathizing with images – make use of that! There are numerous ways to make your journey map visually appealing.

On the one hand it is important to include visual clues, like colors and visualizations. On the other hand it often is relevant to steer the reader’s attention to the details of what you aim to communicate.

Reading these tips will help you to understand how to communicate specifics of your map and how you can engage your audience.

Furthermore it might be important to show how a process operates. Most of the time processes are linear, but in the one or the other case there might also be some kind of repetition or crossroad, where by choosing the one path you go back to the beginning, or jump over a couple of steps that another option would have included.

You can see, there’s a number of things that need to be taken into consideration when aiming at creating a visually appealing journey map.

1. Use images to create empathy

The traditional way of using visuals in a journey map is to upload images that show the situation in a specific step and through that help to create empathy for the persona in your journey map.

Add a storyboard to your journey map to help your team or client get the point within seconds and make understanding and navigation easier.

Add photos of your research, screenshots of what your customers see on your website, diagrams, charts, or take ready-made illustrations to underline the experience. Add sketches if you don’t have proper image material or wireframes if you’d like to show resources that do not exist yet.

2. Add pictograms to illustrate processes

You can use the visualizations in journey maps not only to use photos of the situation, but also to add some process visualizations.

It might make sense to add icons and pictograms that help you to visualize processes that might not be a linear journey. This makes it easier for viewers to grasp the concept of a journey with multiple options or one that goes in multiple loops.

visualization of the user flow through icons and pictograms

3. Combine insights from the emotional journey with a dramatic arc

Emotional journeys represent a persona’s level of satisfaction at each step. The higher the value, the higher the satisfaction.

A dramatic arc is a graph showing the level of a persona's engagement at each step. There are moments of “thrill” (i.e., high engagement) and moments of chill (i.e., low engagement). Both moments of high and low engagement can be positive or negative. For example, a high value on the dramatic arc on a rollercoaster is a must-have, however at a hospital most of the time it’s better to have people calm and relaxed.

Together with the emotional journey, a dramatic arc will indicate what the most essential pain points are: Those with a high value on the dramatic arc (high engagement) and with a negative value on the emotional journey (very unsatisfied) are the experiences you should fix first. Check out other helpful customer journey map examples here.

The combination of the dramatic arc with an emotional journey highlights pain points.

Combination of dramatic arc and emotional journey. In this case, the third step of the emotional journey shows a very low satisfaction and a very high engagement. This means this step should be made a priority to be analyzed and improved right in the beginning!

4. Stress the emotions of a persona through colors

If you want to show more detailed nuances of emotions than possible in the emotional journey we recommend using colors. Often it makes sense to also describe them explicitly, as shown here.

It would also be an option to add user quotes to the journey.

visualization of emotions through color-coding

5. Use emojis for visualizing gradings, feelings or similar

Often words are just not enough to create empathy, sometimes things are just much better comprehensible when using visual clues, like emojis. They can help you visualize multiple different things, like ratings, emotions, or categories.

Using emoticons helps to create visual clues in journey maps

6. Show stakeholders on your journey map to make dependencies obvious

Illustrate your stakeholders. Make everybody aware that stakeholders play a crucial role in a journey map, because unfortunately this tends to be forgotten. Smooth collaboration between you and your stakeholders is essential to deliver a good experience from the beginning to the end. Stakeholders don’t have to be people, depending on the sector they can also be tools, networks or whatever else makes the process work.

Visualization made in Smaply, this is how you can show stakeholders on your journey map.

As you see, there are many possibilities to make a journey map a visually appealing source of insights. However, make sure to use these options carefully and never exaggerate. Adding images that are too complex can be distracting, so please remember the main purpose of the map: Slipping into your customer’s shoes!

Always try to have a good mixture of visual clues to make it nice to look at and easy to differentiate. Also aim at showing things rather than making your audience read each step separately. What is easy to see is easy to remember and therefore the pain points get tackled quicker.

Learn more about journey mapping with Smaply!