The Importance of Developing a User Journey in Design

This is an excerpt from “Rethinking the Interior Design User Journey: How Instagram is Changing User Perceptions of Interior Environments,” a paper written in collaboration with Interior Design Professors, Cotter Christian and Frances Gain.

Developing a user journey is common practice across diverse design disciplines. A user journey or user experience (UX) journey can facilitate the prediction of how someone will interact with a product, interface, website, interior environment, among others. By analyzing and hypothesizing on the stages of a user experience, designers can anticipate opportunities for engaging with users, making their experience more self-evident and meaningful. In Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington’s book, Universal Methods of Design, they define user journey mapping as “a story about an individual’s actions, feelings, perceptions, and frame of mind – including the positive, negative and neutral moments – as he or she interacts with a multi-channel product or service over a period of time… [it] helps teams pinpoint distinct moments that elicit strong emotional reactions that are ripe for redesign and improvement.”

A successful user journey map should indicate multiple scenarios for human-centered interactions with design touchpoints, including functional and emotional attributes. Mapping is most helpful for discovering and avoiding points of frustration or confusion for a user or on the contrary, to surprise and delight the user, revealing opportunities for creating implicitly enjoyable experiences. For interior designers, this exercise can be incorporated into the design process as a way of understanding how a space might be used; for industrial designers, how a product or service might be used; for web and interactive designers, how a website or mobile application might be used.  Donald Norman, a user experience expert of product design and author of the book, Emotional Design, teaches us that “people are not aware of their true needs, discovering them requires careful observations in their natural environment.” He also argues that, “the principles for designing pleasurable, effective interaction between people and products are the same ones that support pleasurable and effective interaction between individuals.” Usability consultant, Steve Krug explains ‘a common sense approach’ to web design in the book, Don’t Make me Think!. He explains, “if something requires a large investment of time – or looks like it will – it’s less likely to be used.” Krug discusses the importance of information architecture for navigating a site and draws comparisons to navigating a physical space. “When we’re exploring the web, in some ways it even feels like we’re moving around in a physical space. Physical spaces like cities and buildings (and even information spaces like books and magazines) have their own navigation systems, with conventions that have evolved over time like street signs, page numbers, and chapter titles.”

Figure 1. Interior Design User Journey Diagram

The question becomes, how does mobile technology and social media (specifically Instagram) alter perceptions of the Interior Design User Journey? Should this technology be considered when designing shared, public places?

Our research investigates mobile technology and Instagram’s role in shopping malls of Hong Kong and how it affects the user experience while people interact with the space.

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