Guiding Principles to Mapping Experiences
At Essential, we leverage various types of maps throughout the design process to build more tangible interactions between our clients and their customers as well as to bring valuable experiences to life. We create our maps with these guiding principles in mind:
1. Frame a structure: The first step is to clearly define your goals: What is the purpose of the map and what are the boundaries of its scope? In which phase of the project will it be leveraged? Will it be a physical or digital model? What are the dimensions that best suit its use? What should the level of fidelity be? How macro or micro are the details? For example, are you capturing daily interactions of a customer with a company or are you trying to understand how multiple components come together to support those interactions? Your map will be viewed and analyzed through these filters; ideally it will support decision-making because it’s created a shared understanding about the specific types of information and layers required.
2. Arrange layers to communicate a theme: Service models are typically layered models because they must accommodate many users’ unique needs. What layers are necessary? How will they be viewed through your chosen filters? What information should be included or excluded? Actions, thoughts, emotions, processes, physical evidence, time periods, places, channels, and relationships are examples of popular layers. The key is to capture the essence of each layer and illustrate meaningful insights, making sure every aspect of the experience contributes to the overall purpose and story.
3. Use qualitative and quantitative data: A combination of qualitative and quantitative information creates credible, robust, and detailed maps. Your filters will determine the ratio of qualitative and quantitative data. Illustrate qualitative information when communicating people’s feelings, thoughts, goals, and motivations behind their actions. Illustrate quantitative information when comparing data points and weighted importance. (E.g. transaction time, cost of interaction.)
4. Show connections: Big ideas need to be communicated simply. Great visuals attract attention and tell a story. How can you transform large amounts of information into a digestible, aesthetically pleasing, and factual visual form? The granular details should illuminate the most powerful ideas within a hierarchy of information that engages your audience. Use scale, typography, contrast, and color to create hierarchy and legibility. This principle directly relies on a creator’s analytic, strategic, and creative skills and affects the richness of a map. Creating a cohesive and comprehensive map is not simply about visualizing information, but is about uncovering patterns to build meaningful stories. What are the differences among customers? Where are the clusters of pain points or satisfactions? By framing the data at broad and detailed levels, we can connect dots and build comprehensive maps.
5. Build empathy: Mapping experiences is about people (not data points). Ground your visual model in research and communicate information through customer perspective. Your understanding of needs, attitudes, behaviors, and underlying motivations must be expressed to create a connection with your audience. In fact, your empathetic view also applies to your audience: appreciate their needs, learn about their level of knowledge, understand their expectations, speak their language, and facilitate the process of embracing your visual model. How can you bring transparency to the data? How can you evoke emotions? What are the familiar and established data points, perspectives, and initiatives that you can borrow to enrich individuals’ connections?
6. Create value and inspire actions: Finally, consider your visual model as a catalyst that can raise awareness and highlight drivers for the next phase of a project. It is a strategic tool that makes the invisible visible. Illustrating and igniting productive discussions around realities of a customer’s life can bring new solutions to life. Analyze your data to reveal insights, critical moments, and calls-to-action that are valuable to customers and profitable to business. What are the takeaways and steps toward change? How can you build visions? What are the opportunities to improve customer relationships and increase their engagement level with the business?
Depending on the situation and project, we apply the principles above to a range of different maps. Here are some typologies: