Story Mapping – Overview & Steps to Build One

Most businesses rely on multiple design thinking tools to have a customer-centered view and achieve an in-depth analysis of consumer choices. These tools help visualize the process and establish innovative ways to address customer needs. One of the most popular exercises for businesses to use is story mapping. 

Brands need to know what their users seek from them, where they interact along the customer’s journey, and how well it is going. Story maps help highlight what customers think about a product and gauge their experience. It also highlights where companies need to work more to achieve their targeted goals.

In this article, we’ve defined and highlighted some of the most important parts of story mapping so you can implement them into your business with success.

What is Story Mapping?

Story mapping is the process of arranging user or customer stories to create an effective and holistic understanding of user experiences related to a specific brand or product. 

Story mapping can be done collectively to display multiple user stories on the same board, or it can be done on a more individual level where you only focus on one consumer story. 

The sequence of story maps is simple; it focuses on the activities and experiences of users and what tasks they perform throughout their journey with a product/service. When you complete a story map, you understand how users interacted with a specific product/service and what were their feelings and objectives. 

Along with analyzing the feelings users have with a given experience, it can pull data to learn more about their actions as well. This data can then be presented to your team. You can analyze it to confirm opinions about the user’s struggles, ideate where a solution is needed, and examine areas that need improvement. 

History of Story Mapping

Jeff Patton invented story mapping in his book titled User Story Mapping. The inspiration behind the book was the extensive and tiring nature of documents involved in CX evaluation and their prolonged misinterpretations that often lead to wrong decisions.

It was invented to clear communication gaps and make a smooth medium for users and teams to understand certain tasks. Later this technique was adopted widely and was used to uncover crucial details of what users demand from brands and products.

Why Do We Use Story Mapping?

Story mapping has some very valuable applications in designing teams, project management, and customer experience. It gives a holistic overview or a complete picture of how the consumers use a product and how they feel while using it. 

It helps identify missed opportunities by a business in which it could take an appropriate step and enhance user engagement. It highlights the gaps both from the user’s end and the company’s end. Story mapping helps prioritize the minimum required tasks to reach your goals while also prioritizing an increase in customer experience.

How Does Story Mapping Work?

Story maps work with the set of two different levels, minor and major. Major steps entail adding most of the large-level actions and feelings from the user’s end, and the minor steps are all about filling in the details on both sides. Both types of tasks add to the functionality of story maps. These maps help teams thanks to their ability to visualize a journey and present this from the customer’s perspective. 

Story maps often focus on creating a different sequence to a user’s story to maximize their potential satisfaction through their interactions with the business. It performs on a team’s assumption of what has happened in a particular setting and cross-references with specific user feedback to create a holistic picture of what happens. 

When Is Story Mapping Applicable?

The best thing about story maps is that anyone can use them at different phases of product planning, CX evaluation, or customer research. Story mapping is a great way to visualize a customer’s journey to improve their experience, and this is a helpful task for teams in many different scenarios. 

You can identify the factors that give you the biggest possible advantage and provide momentum towards achieving your targeted goals. You can spot all the potential interactions a user has and redesign your campaign to nail those steps.

Story Mapping Advantages

Here are some of the benefits of story maps and how they can improve your business.

Focused On the Customer

As mentioned above, a story map consists of multiple user stories. In this way, we can see a consumer-centric approach that values consumers’ choices through their experience or interaction with the product.

It only focuses on how the user came to know about the brand and what was their whole journey throughout the interaction, and their thoughts afterward. This focus on the customer helps tune out unnecessary noise that can derail your project and allows you to focus strictly on what’s important.

Provides a Shared Understanding

If you are confused about having multiple necessary and unnecessary elements in your design, using a story map will highlight the critical stages and tasks you need to focus on for better results. You can create a collective understanding of these critical features with your team and develop collaborative strategies to counter any disturbances in your map. This demonstrates how story mapping can facilitate a collaborative discussion about a customer’s experience and how that can boost your team to the next level.

Presents a Holistic View of the Customer

Multiple tools often fail to provide a complete picture of a customer-facing problem. When using a story map, you can look at the goals of not only a single customer but a large group of users. Analyzing their shared goals, pain points, and actions helps provide a holistic view of their experience and where it needs to improve. 

Improves Internal Communication 

We all want our teams to communicate with us on a better level. It’s no secret that improved communication makes teams much more efficient, and story mapping provides a medium for teams to communicate frequently about customer-facing issues. They align multiple teams towards the same problems and provide people with processes to reach their shared goals. 

Project Visualization 

The project team needs to have a visualized experience of what they are working on to view a user experience effectively. Documenting a customer journey on a linear document is confusing and tedious, whereas creating a story map is dynamic and fluid. Visualization can help clear up unnecessary doubts and makes things easier to understand. Story maps completely visualize each step of the process for people to understand the sequence and formulate further plans. 

Insight to Requirements 

If you cannot understand and prioritize the requirements of your projects, your customers will suffer. Especially when your projects are customer-facing, you need to keep both your goals and your customer’s goals in mind. Story maps enable you to document your goals throughout your collaboration sessions, so everyone is able to keep them in mind throughout.

With story maps, you can easily spot where your efforts are needed and can dodge potential risks to your projects. Further, your team will have enough space to formulate the best strategies to encounter future risks. 

How To Build a User Story Map

Depending on your specific scenario and needs, your story map will always look unique compared to others. That being said, there are some important steps to follow and pieces to include that all story maps share. Here are some of the critical steps to building a user story map. 

Identify The Need

To start the process, you need to establish the need for a story mapping session. This can be based on your own experience, some vocalization from your customers, or the results of some research you’ve conducted. This plan can include multiple teams whose efforts will be relevant to the final product, or it can just be a select few who will build the map for everyone else. If you are the project manager, you will have to start the process by showing different stories of users in a sequence and asking your team about them one by one. 

Establish Your User Persona 

After you have identified the need for a story map, you need to understand the user persona that the journey is modeled after. This will depend on the story map you’re creating and whether it focuses on a single user persona or accommodates multiple personas. If you struggle to establish a persona, try creating a persona map to identify your users. 

Take the Big Steps

After your persona is established, you can start mapping the customer journey. You will manually create steps in the process, actions that occur to trigger different stages, and the opinions/feelings associated with their actions.

It’s important to not focus strictly on the actions here but also include the motivations and goals of the user as they progress through their journey. Their motivations will have significant implications on their actions and their reasoning.

Another important step to highlight in the creation process is assumption mapping. It’s important that your team airs their assumptions behind the user’s actions and compares them to the user’s real motivations. This can reveal discoveries in terms of user empathy and their perspective.

This section can include both the technical and human factors that engaged your persona and made the interaction possible. Ask your team to come up with more ways channels through which the interaction between the business and the user could have happened. 

Analyze the Result 

Now that the story map is completed, you must analyze the results and compare them to your respective goals. Discuss with your team the possible outcomes of each story and what they think about it. Given the current user story, how can you enhance their experience in meaningful ways? Where are they struggling the most, and how can that be remedied? Where do the user’s goals lead them, and how can we make that process successful? 

Your team will then decide what they want to keep and what they want to edit, and this will give you insight into what needs to be prioritized collectively. In this way, they will edit all the unnecessary elements that are not providing any value to the story map. 

In the evaluation process, make sure all of the participants are contributing positively and are having an effect on the exercise. In this way, you will be able to give your team enough value and encouragement to participate and research more for better customer engagements and experiences. 

Conclusion

Story maps are a great way to utilize your time and skills in creating and identifying ways to interact with your consumers. It gives you the possible solutions to the loopholes that might have impacted your customer’s experience. Furthermore, story maps help create a product that customers appreciate and value as they help them reach their goals. If you liked this article, make sure you stay tuned to Fresco to learn more about story mapping.

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