Understanding your customer’s experience is the first step in creating solutions that provide real value. The use of visual representations — diagrams of the experience — helps expose opportunities for growth.

You’re probably already familiar with these types of diagrams. They go by many names: customer journey maps, experience maps, service blueprints and more. Together, they provide valuable business insight.

However, many people associate mapping experiences with heavy upfront research. This need not be the case. In fact, diagrams can be created and used by a team in a matter of days.


The key is to work systematically, but quickly through the four modes of thinking when creating a map. Briefly, here are the stages in the process:


Make sure the map is relevant to the organization.To get started quickly, answer these 5 key questions:

  • Point of view – whose experiences are you mapping and which experiences?
  • Scope – When does the experience begin and end?
  • Focus – What aspects are you going to highlight?
  • Structure – How will you arrange and represent the information in a diagram?
  • Use – How will you use the diagram to foster a conversation with your team?

In some cases the answers may be self evident. In more complex situations, you may need more discussion. Still, this typically only takes a few hours in most cases.


A good map is grounded in research. Rely on three different types of information sources to inform your diagram:

  • Review existing reports and studies. Find out what’s already known about customers and their experiences. This can be done in a matter of hours.
  • Interview internal stakeholders. You’ll only need to speak with a handful of people to get a good body of information. It may only take half a day to get good insight from them.
  • Observe and speak to real customers. This can be done guerrilla style — on the street or in office hallways or on the phone. In a single day you could even speak with 4-6 customers.


You don’t have to be an artist to create a diagram. The result of your work could be sticky notes on a board. Involve others in its creation: people understand and support what they help create.

MURAL is a great tool to work online in a low fidelity way that still looks very presentable (see image below).


Example map created rapidly in MURAL

Of course, if you need a high fidelity version of a diagram you’ll need some time to create that or even enlist a graphic designer to help out.


The overall objective is not to create a diagram; it’s to develop solutions together. The diagram doesn’t make the decisions for you. Think of it as a springboard into concepts for improvement and innovation.

Use the map to engage others in activities that foster understanding and agreement across the group. This includes design sprints, ideation sessions, user story mapping, content mapping and more.

In this sense, rapid mapping fits well with contemporary techniques such as design sprints. Schedule a mutli-day workshop in advance to discuss the diagram and use it to develop solutions together quickly.

But also keep in mind that you’ll need to continue developing and validating ideas after a work session with your team. Plan ongoing experiments to test your assumptions and flesh out concepts.


Putting it all together, it’s possible to move through the process in about a week’s time.

The image below shows an approximate timeline for each of the 4 stages with the minimum time needed at each stage.


A general process for mapping experience, with an accelerated timeline

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