Map key example

A simple map key

User Experience Maps can be used throughout the lifecycle of an agile project to model experiences and keep a user-centered focus (Reality Maps are an example).

The backbone of a map is a series of steps describing the user’s workflow for accomplishing a goal. The remaining elements of the map can vary based on the project, the team, and the resources on hand. Try defining a key to help participants create the map more efficiently and read it more effectively.

The Core Elements

Questions indicate a lack of information or understanding surrounding a step. Questions should be added to the map when someone doesn’t have a complete understanding of the user’s workflow or the technology needed to support that workflow. Questions are also a good way to address rat holes—seemingly simple topics that turn into excessively long discussions and distract from the primary conversation. Placing these topics onto a question sticky maintains the importance of the topic while allowing the team to postpone discussion until it is more relevant to the work at hand.

Comments describe a known piece of information that lends meaning to a step. Comments can be qualitative or quantitative, and they often fall into categories like these:

  • Time and frequency of use.
  • Location and physical context.
  • Interactions with people or systems.
  • Terminology and standards.
  • Technical capabilities and limitations.

Ideas illustrate interesting concepts that could enhance a step, but are not critical to its completion. Ideas come in handy when someone suggests a specific design solution prior to the planning session. They are also helpful in addressing comments that fall outside the defined scope of a project.

Additional Elements

You can incorporate additional elements into a map based on the project and physical environment. The team may find it useful to have an indication of:

  • Elements added by new participants.
  • Problem areas that need attention.
  • Physical artifacts that impact the workflow.
  • A need for further exploration or research.

Sticky notes of a different color or size are an easy way to represent new elements, but be creative! The Persona Lifestyle suggests using Mr. Yuk stickers to make particularly unpleasant problem areas stand out for the team. You can order these from the Pittsburgh Poison Center.