When you design a new edTech product, you know how important it is to start with research. In particular, user experience research will help your team develop a strong user persona and a detailed, visual narrative of your product experience, also called user journey mapping.
Sometimes product teams need a little extra support imagining—and empathizing with—the day-to-day realities of students and teachers. Visual aids can be a great tool for illustrating human-centered design principles, creating stronger user journeys, and supporting your entire product team’s understanding of your user base.
Below, we discuss what makes a good user journey map, demonstrate how illustration tools make these narratives even stronger, and explain the relationship between user journeys and strategic design decisions.
Let’s dive in!
What Is User Journey Mapping?
To help product teams deeply understand their users, UX designers combine insights about a user’s environment and their mindset into a narrative tool called a “user journey.” This tool illustrates what users are doing in the moments before, during, and after interacting with an edTech product, as well as how users feel at each stage.
The building block of any user journey is the user persona. Personas illustrate who your users are, and what they’re concerned about. With a research-backed vision of your users’ learning environments, you’ll be able to envision how your edTech product solves their challenges. You’ll also be more likely to empathize with their day-to-day experiences and better anticipate their needs.
This empathy exercise is especially important for developing accurate edTech user journeys. Our users face barriers we aren’t accustomed to, from slow internet connections in schools and homes to classroom management challenges. That’s a far cry from digital agencies with new computers, fancy design software, and no students to wrangle!
Once you’ve uncovered all of this contextual information through user experience research, you’ll be better able to identify your users’ mindset as they interact with your learning tool—and create a meaningful user journey for your product team.
An Example User Journey for a Teacher Persona
Whether they’re highly designed or a narrative sketch, user journeys offer a glimpse into real-world scenarios that can be validated by additional research and testing.
A teacher’s user journey takes into consideration all the steps a teacher takes, from the moment they consider using your tool to the moment they log off and transition into a different lesson. A simplified version of a teacher’s user journey might look like this:
- Before using your learning tool: Arriving in the classroom, getting students logged on
- While using your learning tool: Keeping students on task
- After using your learning tool: Understanding student performance through reporting features
Teachers, in particular, face a range of challenges in their individual classrooms. These challenges include corralling tech-savvy students who race ahead within software, or supporting young learners who need extra help just to log in to a product. Supported with UX research, your user journey should reflect these realities.
The same user journey will also map the teacher’s emotions onto each stage of the experience:
- Before: Anxious, excited
- During: Challenged, delighted, in a state of flow
- After: Reassured, confident, supported
Unlike other forms of UX research, user journeys also attempt to paint an ideal. After all, every edTech product owner wants their users to feel “reassured, confident, and supported.”
Only additional UX research and testing will validate if your assumptions are correct. This makes user journeys a beginning point for design—not the final destination.
4 Ways Illustration Tools Help You Create Better User Journeys
While UX research can paint a picture for your product team, sometimes it’s more impactful to offer an actual picture.
Illustration tools like Flowchart, for example, offer a quick shorthand to help product teams better understand user needs, challenges, and environments, so they can create a more human-centered product.
At Backpack, we’ve found that illustration supports the creation of better user journeys in four ways:
1. Visuals help product teams develop empathy.
Part of the purpose of creating a user journey is to help the product design team develop empathy for your users. This is an emotional process, and an illustration that depicts the entire scenario at once helps product stakeholders build empathy.
2. Visuals help translate UX research into narrative.
By tapping into visual representations, your team will also have to do less work translating data into a powerful user journey. Visuals help teams imagine and tell a richer story, organizing all the details of your UX research into a narrative whole.
3. Visuals help identify edge cases.
Illustration is an especially great way to determine user challenges or edge cases. If your visuals ultimately reflect the ideal state of using your experience, discussing what isn’t pictured will help your team identify the edge cases that might throw a wrench into the works.
4. Visuals build product stakeholder consensus.
Last but not least, early illustration efforts can build consensus among your team and inform the written narrative of your user journey.
Because user journeys are a crucial tool for aligning product stakeholders, it’s important to ensure that everyone understands what your research has uncovered about the learning environment. Illustrations are a great way to improve this understanding. This way, you can create even stronger user journeys that impact the edTech product design process for the better.
How User Journey Mapping Affects edTech Product Design
As you map the stages of your user journey, your product team will begin to uncover the extrinsic factors that exist outside of your control. In edTech product design, it’s crucial to recognize and account for these environmental factors as you create an experience.
Say you’re designing a learning tool for Kindergarten teachers to use in real time in their classrooms. One extrinsic factor you’ll have to account for is time and student age or grade level. Realistically, it will take an incredibly long time for a single teacher to log each of their Kindergarten students into an app. Is your product still effective if used in very short amounts of time, say 5 to 10 minutes?
These are the kinds of design decisions you can only make when you understand your users in an in-depth way. In addition to any constraints or challenges your product might pose, you’ll also have to consider the value-adds, from printable reports to systems of notifications that build in teacher or student routines.
The strategic design decisions shaped by user journeys aren’t all based on imaginative or empathetic leaps, however. Conducting user experience research will help you validate your assumptions and ideas.
From observing users logging into your product to asking detailed questions in qualitative interviews, your UX strategy paves the way for effective user journeys—and more effective product design.