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Laser Proofing the Customer Journey

Gary Hoff has worked in digital design and brand experience for the past 20 years, creating user experience and design at Apple, Sapient and AMV BBDO. Here he introduces the concept of the user / customer journey. 

To begin with, can you explain what we mean by customer journey?

The customer journey, more commonly known as the User Journey, is any sequence of steps the person takes. This can be as simple as opening a web page to buy a pair of shoes or as complex as a month long journey where the person interacts with many different parts of the brand across web, mobile, TV, print and events. 

Often I'm trying to make creatives aware of what the customer journey is and how they can use it as a framework to structure their concepts and narrative. 

How do you initially understand the journey a customer is going on?

All imagined customer journeys are theoretical. But you can do interviews and studies to really see what your customer experience is like and what areas along the journey you can start to improve or reinvent. 

Talking to real users is really important. It's similar to the film making process of a documentary; you are trying to map out what their real experience is like. 

Can you share a technique for articulating a customer journey?

There are many techniques and ways to do this and often it's what best suits the client and the timeframe. 

I prefer to sketch journeys out just like a film storyboard. It helps to add context, time location and environment. Clients really like the drawings, which help them imagine the users’ experience. So it’s time to call up those great storyboard illustrators with their magic markers. I often like to use the most non-digital tools. 

What does understanding a customer journey then allow you to do?

It allows you to see all the holes in the brand experience, it makes you aware of the possibilities to create business change and effect how people can interact with your brand. 

Often a digital experience is littered with irrelevant crap that means little to people. A brand should be laser focused on driving meaningful and enriching experiences to people. If you respect their intelligence and time they will repay you eight times over with loyalty and respect.

How can you identify a point on that journey which requires improvement?

You can crunch the data and look at drop-off points, but also you can check it with your gut - ask ‘is it worth my time?’ Use people around you to test stuff out; find people that don't pull any punches. Take on-board user feedback to craft and improve things. 

If it's really bad, take it out. Better to have an amazing 5-step journey than a mediocre 20-step journey. It's hard to summarise journeys like this as there are so many different facets and levels to them. In the end they are like stories: they have a beginning, middle and end, and you want to make sure yours is a bloody good read. 

Anyone looking for UX strategy training courses would be hard pushed to find a better guide than Gary Hoff, join him for a day of digital storytelling at his D&AD session Storytelling in the Digital Space. 

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