User Journey and Empathy Mapping with Harry Brignull and Andy Parker

Empathy mapping and user journey mapping are two great ways distill insights from client stakeholders and subject-matter experts. In their hands-on training workshop, Harry Brignull and Andy Parker showed participants how to use these methods in almost any scenario without breaking a sweat.

Harry explained that a lot of organisations want to deliver a good user experience, but don’t know how to go about it. They often think they can create a product based on what their business needs, then sprinkle UX on top like a cake decoration. He argued that we need to educate clients about user centred design and help them to change their processes.

This workshop was designed to help participants learn how to do this using empathy maps, which are rough personas depicting the users you are designing for, and user journey maps, which is a map of a user’s experience with something, broken down into steps through time.

Empathy Maps

This method is good to use when you have a room full of people who understand the user(s) and you want to collate that information. The user persona is loosely defined, and participants are asked to consider what this user might be:

  • Saying
  • Seeing
  • Thinking and Feeling
  • Hearing

This method allows you to externalise and capture this information from the people in the room in a way that can be used constructively in the next stage of the process.

User Journey Maps

This method uses the empathy map and applies it to an experience the user has already had (a retrospective experience) or might have in the future (a prospective experience).

The user journey map itself is a grid that features columns describing the steps involved in the experience. The rows of the grid include actions, questions, happy moments, pain points and opportunities. The opportunities and pain points allow you to identify ways to improve the user experience.

Harry and Andy guided participants through two exercises using these methods:

Exercise 1:

Client: A hen and stag event company

Brief: You have been brought on board to help your client create products that tap into this massive market. The current offering is poor, so the client is keen to use UX to create a killer offering.

Assumptions: You’re already done 30 user interviews, you’ve logged and categorised their statements and you’ve created a user personas. Harry and Andy provided one for use in the exercise.

Activity: Participants were asked to complete the user journey map using an empathy map covering the experiences of a maid of honour or best man who organised a hen/stag party in the last year.

Exercise 2:

Add an “Opportunities” row suggesting solutions to the problems identified


Each group presented their solutions to each other, explaining how they arrived at their ideas based on the results of their user journey map.

In conclusion, Harry recommended using these techniques to help clients to think about users and journey, rather than specs and features, which will help them to adjust their thinking. However, he warned against skipping ahead and using these techniques at the development stage of the design process. He stressed that they should be used in the discovery stage, and followed by validation activities, such as user research, competition evaluations and stakeholder activities.

About Harry Brignull

Having worked for many top UX agencies and well known clients, Harry is now an independent user experience consultant helping businesses understand users and design products.

Harry’s clients have included The Telegraph, Dennis Publishing, Celesio, The Guardian, Sainsbury’s, Vodafone and many others. Prior to his UX consultancy career Harry was an academic researcher, doing a PhD in Cognitive Science and a research fellowship in CSCW and Ubiquitous Computing.

As a side project, Harry runs – a website dedicated to naming and shaming unethical businesses that profit by intentionally deceiving their customers.

Follow Harry on Twitter: @harrybr

About Andy Parker

A believer in accessible web design, Andy is an evangelist for progressive enhancement and designing with content-first. He is passionate about developing prototypes for just about anything including furniture and is often found with a hacksaw rather than a keyboard.

Follow Andy on Twitter: @theavangelist