User Journey and Workflow: The Designer's Secret Weapon

User experience feeling like an incohesive patchwork is a common problem for large complex software products. Journey maps and workflow diagrams help bring the product big picture into focus and facilitate teams' effort towards a united user experience.  

Here is how I used journey map/workflow exercises to foster a cohesive user experience for two GE products.

The two products share some common traits:

  1. Both were at a early stage of the product life cycle, with limited prior work to reference. Much was still unknown about the product and what the overall user experience would be.

  2. Both required complex domain-specific workflows that the product teams had to learn about. The workflows usually involved multiple personas and many steps to complete.

  3. Due to large product scope, both applications adopted organizational structures where multiple product managers and dev teams worked on different pieces of the product. This created silos and teams had no clear idea about how their piece would fit into the overall user workflow.

As the designer working on these products, I needed to change the status quo. My job is to craft one cohesive user experience that defies the boundaries of product team territory. Users should not have to juggle between different experiences just because they happen to be built by two different teams. Therefore, a designer's job, by definition, is to break down silos. For products that are built by large teams, design is in a strategic position to help shape the overall product and bring teams together.

How do I bring teams together under one cohesive user experience? By creating journey maps and workflow diagrams. Here is how I did that for these two products:




Developers' go-to place for managing all aspects of development activities when using the Predix platform.


For this complex project, my colleagues Edward Romero, Michael Moreau and I created an detailed journey map that captured the people and steps involved in making applications on Predix. We conducted many user interviews and subject matter expert interviews, and also walked through the process ourselves. In the end, we identified x personas and y steps involved from signing up on Predix to eventually deploying a successful app. This journey map helped the product management team refine the feature road map, and also helped the design team define the app's information architecture.

A section of the journey map



Data scientists' one-stop shop for creating and deploying data analytics for industrial machinery.


Shortly after joining the product, I noticed that one issue was constantly getting in the way of the teams' communication - a lack of clarify on how a user should move from one step to the next (each of the workbench steps was managed and developed by a separate team). I decided to start a conversation around this issue, by designing an end-to-end user workflow.

The resulting workflow diagram illustrated my proposed steps and personas involved from the initial data cleaning to the ultimate analytic deployment. I posted the diagram on the wall and walked it through with other designers, product managers and software architects. I updated the workflow based on people's feedback. These conversations sparked by the workflow diagrams helped flesh out teams' understanding of a cohesive user experience and converged differing opinions towards one concrete design.


A section of the workflow diagram.


Whenever I catch myself losing sight of the larger picture of the application I design, I go create a quick and easy user journey or workflow to bring the overall user experience back into focus. They are also great conversation starters that bring diverging ideas on a large team into alignment. Journeys and workflows rock!