journeys, experiences, & mental spaces

The other day a university student named Maria Hernando wrote to ask me my opinion about the relationship between User Journey Maps, Customer Journey Maps, and User Experience Maps … and how a mental model diagram might relate to any one of them.

I told Maria that I think of the maps as the same, or similar enough. The maps try to represent an actual example of how a person (or persona) went through and did something they wanted to do. The maps are generally chronological, moving forward through the hours of the persona’s actions one stage at a time. I told her that I think the phrase “experience map” came about because we want to be agnostic of whether the persona was using digital tools or not, or a combination of tools. The map represents the journey a person takes from the idea of accomplishing something to having accomplished that thing in the end. We want to see how it all hangs together from the persona’s perspective.

There can be as many experience/journey maps for a particular persona as there are deviations in the way they do that thing. For example, if a persona was taking a commercial flight, there might be different maps for a business-related flight than a leisure-oriented flight. There might be different maps based on whether it’s a last-minute or urgent flight. There might be different maps for long versus short flights, flights where the persona has to get work done before landing, flights where the persona is scared of flying, etc.

The mental model diagram represents a set of states of mind (mental spaces) that a person might pop into and out of during this journey toward accomplishing a goal. The states of mind might proceed in a nice linear fashion. Or they might represent a more cyclical approach, where the person revisits a previous state of mind again to re-evaluate something, to continue something, or to address something new that has come up. When I combine experience maps with a mental model diagram, what I do is add little bubbles labeled with a mental space along the journey. Sometimes the bubbles repeat themselves in this fashion.

I wish I could share some actual diagrams, but here’s a quick sketch as an example. The experience is laid out left to right in brown, and the mental space bubbles appear in pink above, with red arrows showing the way this persona, Susan, popped into and out of Get Work Done several times during her trip. Apparently her boss had asked her to finish a report before she arrived at the meeting in Chicago the next day. (Feel free to tweak the concepts that are represented in the combined diagram of an experience map plus mental spaces. Feel free to make it prettier.)

journey map sketch mixed with mental spaces