Mapping for Success (or Failure)

A standard practice in UX Design is creating user Journey Maps, a process that uses storytelling and visualization to better understand the process a visitor goes through to navigate your site. Journey Mapping will create user personas which represent their most likely target audience, including aspects such as age, geographical location, occupation, etc. The next stage is to collect user goals and related actions to create a narrative of the user experience (storytelling). Before Journey Mapping can begin however, it is important to determine what you are trying to understand, or glean from the map. Are you interested in how long it takes a user to find contact information? Is there a specific customer you are trying to understand better? Once this type of information is decided you can begin to map that scenario.

What is Failure Mapping?

How is this different from Failure Mapping, you may wonder? Both types of mapping rely on data gathered about the user and their movement through your website, and the ultimate goal of each mapping technique is to learn more about your users and to improve user experience and conversion rates.


The difference however is in perspective. Journey Mapping focuses on where scenarios go well, and when users achieve their goals. This data is then taken and applied elsewhere. Failure Mapping, as you may have guessed by now, focuses on patterns of failure. It asks the question, where did this scenario go wrong? Why did this user leave the site at this point in their journey? Failure Mapping also relies on historical data, so we can see if or when many users share the same point of failure. This is crucial information to have, as it can help to improve user experience significantly. When patterns of failure can be identified, it is possible to fix or at least minimize the impact they will have on user experience in the future.

Why is this Important for 2017?

As stated already, Journey Mapping focuses on the success of your site or product, and as such creates maps with the ideal user in mind. Failure Mapping takes on the perspective of the non-ideal user and finds solutions for them. This will be a powerful tool in 2017 because according to the International Telecommunications Union, half the world will be online this year, and that will inevitably include inexperienced and first-time users. How will you account for their success online? So much of successful UX Design is intuition, but a user who has never used the internet before may not have the same intuitions about its functions as lifelong users.

For example, a few months ago I was visiting with my grandparents, and they wanted to ask me a question about using their computer (as they often do). They were trying to reply to a comment on Facebook, but they said they couldn’t because there was no button to click. I never noticed this, but they were right, there was no button. To post a reply to a comment you need to hit Enter on the keyboard. They had no idea that was even an option because there is nothing to indicate that on Facebook, and as a result they hadn’t replied to any comments for weeks. This is the type of issue that can be discovered with Failure Mapping if it is a common occurrence.


Of course, Failure Mapping will solve more issues than my grandparents learning how to use their keyboard. As more and more diverse groups of users start using technologies for the first time, an increased focus on Failure Mapping will lead to more efficient problem solving and implementation of solutions. Journey Mapping will still have an important role in UX design, but a good UX design team will utilize both techniques to achieve the most comprehensive analysis of their users.



Inside the Elevator

ITU Data

UX Mag

Unified Info Tech


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