Mapping is fascinating. Describing things accurately, projecting outcomes correctly, understanding perspectives and driving the right path of navigation without overloading technical and creative teams with too much information. It’s remarkable.
Thanks to Google and Apple, when we want to go from point A to B, we choose a route in real time. We can avoid traffic or report incidents (using Waze),and our choices and actions influence other drivers in our area. Nothing’s linear or static.
Just twenty years ago, you needed a paper map, a route and you hoped for reliable signage. You had pay close attention to not miss exits or get lost due to construction detours. You made it to your destination, but you probably missed hidden, local gems that a paper map would have no way of knowing about or indicating to you. A paper map could also never know your unique preferences.
Today, we want to point to a destination and let context do the driving. As digital and offline touch-points increase, consumers want frictionless experiences that merge the physical and digital. Understanding the customer journey is increasingly critical.
Consumers interact across multiple media types, devices and locations. Brands are challenged to interact at moments that influence buying decisions. Therefore, we need to shift the conversation from mapping moments to mapping “flow” – understanding the synapses when people interact with each other, the environment, and the things they touch and change.
Facebook’s Beth Dean explains,“In the early aughts we learned to build websites without tables, then we learned to use data to make decisions. Emotion never played a role in driving page views, purchases or video plays. We just needed to get people from point A to point B. People live their entire lives online now, we’re embarking on a new frontier as designers; we’re designing frameworks for people to exist online — a lot like they do offline.”
More than ever, emotional intelligence is critical. Being smart is no longer enough; you need to know how to handle that intelligence.
Till recently, everything in the physical world was designed and implemented exactly the same way for 30 years. Engineers spoke and wrote code, which machines understood, interpreted and responded to. It was easy to map journeys, decisions and to understand “whys.”
But we don’t stop being human when we go online. We don’t stop feeling, reacting, being influenced, making mistakes, or acting by instinct rather than by the book. Dean writes, “For years designers have approached software as though it were neutral: here’s a set of options, now complete a task. In reality, people interact with software like it’s a human. As designers, we can shift our approach to thinking about how people might feel using our products much like we would think about having a conversation with another person. The ability to handle relationships and be aware of emotions is called emotional intelligence, and it’s what’s often missing in software design today.”
Therefore, we need a more human approach – something able to learn, adjust, take advantage of context, be smart, and emotionally intelligent.
Our design-led approach needs to be characterized and based on attributes like self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and people skills. We need these in everything we design – products, services, ecosystems and anything on the web – so that they act and react in ways closer to our own. We can achieve this only if we apply design lessons learned from the past.
Everything we do or decide is based on relationships with whom or what is around us. Emotions and facts drive us to understand, ask, demand, empathize, give space, ask for more, compromise. Nothing is neutral.
Previously, software allowed us to predict almost every possible logical outcome, but we were unable to assign values that provided deeper levels of true understanding. Dean explains, “This is especially true with binary systems: a person completes a task or they don’t. This sounds neutral, when in fact the consequences of not completing the task could range from inconvenient to devastating. This lack of awareness is where we get into trouble and sometimes unintentionally do harm. Reason without feeling is blind.” Instead of a Boolean “one or zero” approach, we need a fuzzier one that drives users down the path we’ve designed and helps us to understand their routes as they do, buy or use things. To achieve this, we must traverse unchartered territory, plotting peoples’ emotional skills and behaviors, and adjust our design-led approach. If we accomplish this, things will become so fluid that we’re not likely to predict outcomes but we can ensure that we are part of it.
At the end of the day, we need to design and deliver flows, journey, and products that align with human wants and needs. Understanding and mapping the customer journey is like nurturing a relationship. We need to give everything and invest understanding without expecting anything in return.