User Journey vs. User Flow: Differences and Similarities

Is a User Journey Similar to a User Flow?

User journeys are similar to user flows in that they illustrate the paths users follow when interacting with your product or service. While both tools help to provide valuable insights when optimizing the experiences that guide your customers from A to B, the two terms cannot be used interchangeably.

Let’s explore their differences so you can decide which tool is better suited to optimizing your user experience (UX).

What is a User Flow?

A user flow is a chain of actions and processes that users take on a website or app that moves them closer to the desired outcome. User flows help organizations get a complete picture of how customers interface with their product, such as what they click to bring them closer to sale.


What is a User Journey?

A user journey explores the same steps as a user journey while overlaying a user’s emotional response, pain points, and motivations along the way. These emotions play a vital role in helping organizations understand the following:

  • How the customer feels while interfacing with the product

  • If the process is difficult, pleasant, or frustrating

You can think of this as sending a driver going through the countryside to enjoy fresh air instead of getting stuck in a traffic jam. Understanding your user journey helps your customers to follow the most pleasant path when getting to their destination.

If you already have user flows, the next step is overlaying emotion and intention to generate user journey maps as part of your experience design process.

Develop Empathy with Positive and Negative User Journeys

There are two ends of the spectrum with user journeys: positive and negative.

A positive user journey means the customer could quickly achieve the intended outcome, with minimal effort and almost no bugs or errors. A negative user journey is where customers encounter frustrating and dissuading emotions while using a product or service.

The best way to provide a positive journey is to consult with a UX designer to develop an intuitive user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). It will also identify opportunities to reach out to your customers if negative aspects of the journey are unavoidable.

For example, positive journey aspects may come in the form of presenting an opportunity to cross-sell another product. In contrast, a negative journey aspect may involve directing the user to a chatbot to troubleshoot an issue. In both cases, you are providing new ways to better serve your customers.

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What is User Journey Mapping Used For?

A user journey map can be created by working with product managers to perform customer research. This could include customer persona analysis, market demographics, and customer feedback or interviews.

You can then leverage this user research to create a user flow diagram with the design team. User journey mapping will show a process or workflow in your product or service and the following three separate zones of focus in a flow chart:

  • Zone One - This section should include a scenario or case study with goals and expected outcomes for the customer persona.

  • Zone Two - This is where a series of steps are described, with an entry point and an exit point. A line graph or similar visualization can appear in the background to show satisfaction rising and falling with each step. This should also include user stories, images or videos of the process, and relevant information for the UX design process. Be sure to include positive and negative sentiment here for a full spectrum of customer empathy.

  • Zone Three - This final section should discuss the opportunities to improve zone two. During each step, discover what can be improved to raise customer satisfaction or improve usability.

Achieve Business Outcomes with User Journey Mapping

User journey maps should illustrate data-driven narratives to help businesses spot previously unseen opportunities. Our mapping specialists can chart your narrative to achieve business goals and outcomes, as well as help you with the following:

Increased Cross-Selling and Upselling Opportunities

Identify gaps in product or service portfolios and integrate new solutions to increase the value proposition.

Improved Product or Service Efficiency and Reduce Expenditure

Identify problems from the user perspective that could be wasting resources, as well as possible ways to drive efficiency and reduce expense.

Greater Customer Lifetime Value

Understand users’ needs, and target products or services to generate more revenue per customer.

Congruent Cross-Channel Experiences

Standardize experiences across various channels, such as social media, desktop and mobile websites, applications, and email.

Localized Services

Understand the environments and countries from which customers are using your services, and optimize the experience based on demographic, language, and culture.

Visualize Your User Journey with Trianz’ Journey Mapping Services

For both positive and negative user journeys, visualization is a great way to understand and improve the customer experience. Trianz can help with our CX journey mapping services that deliver high-value, low-friction customer experiences.

This is achieved by analyzing data touchpoints throughout the customer experience. Generated data-driven insights can then be used to align stakeholders with customer needs, as well as uplift employee empathy by understanding customer pain points.

Experience the Trianz Difference

We have gathered millions of real-world data points, which have led to our discovery that customers exhibit specific behaviors and have certain expectations when deciding whether to buy a product or service. Based on this information, we can mold the right customer experiences, support options, and other solutions that will make your products or services stand out amongst the competition.

Powered by knowledge, research, and perspectives, we enable clients to transform their business ecosystems and achieve superior performance by helping them deliver greater value at every touchpoint. Reach out to one of our CX specialists and get started building a customer-first strategy today.

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