Why it’s important to differentiate between Customer Journeys and User Journeys

Hands-up, I’ve done it numerous times in the past. I’ve referred to a ‘User’ incorrectly instead of a ‘Customer’, and vice-versa. I suppose the first question people ask is “What’s the difference?”, followed by something along the lines of “Who cares, surely it’s just semantics… isn’t it?”

Part of the problem is simply semantics, but there are certain scenarios when there is a real need to clearly define the difference between a ‘User’ and a ‘Customer’ because failure to do so can impact the understanding of their environment, behaviours and thought process.

A key example of this is when we start to create journeys of how we expect someone to complete a particular task, event or moment across a range of screens, devices or human touch-points across a varying timescale. Within the world of Customer Experience (read our blog about ‘What is CX’) and User Experience (UX), we should always look to clearly distinguish between a Customer Journey and a User Journey.


Customer Journeys – used in CX

A customer journey – or ‘Experience Map’ to give it its specific title – is where we start to shape a vision and strategy that represents a complete end-to-end view of all connections that someone has with a business or organisation across all touchpoints (digital and non-digital), aligned to human behaviours and emotions (identified via various types of quantitative and qualitative research). Once the vision has been documented, this then helps drive the prioritisation of what propositions and products (e.g. native apps, responsive sites, systems) need to be improved or created, and provides a foundation with clear context as to why these projects exist and working towards.

Via a high-level holistic view, the Experience Map highlights the entire end-to-end experience across touchpoints, plotting customer’s behaviours, the emotions they’ll be feeling at different stages, the interaction type (whether digital and/or human), any personal drivers to complete the task, a summary of key interactions with the brand and relevant milestones, and how they’ll be served once they’ve purchased a product.

Customer journeys shouldn’t include specifics about the low-level detail of the various screens they’ll navigate through to complete a specific task. This is defined through User Journeys, as part of UX activities within a specific project.


User Journeys – used in UX

User Journeys are used specifically within UX. User journeys are created to represent the low level detail of how we’re proposing users navigate each page/step within the completion of identified common tasks, in relation to a specific product (such as a responsive website, native app, business system).

This low-level detail within a user journey includes:

  • Documenting objectives of each page/step
  • Key features & functionality to aid task completion
  • Design hypothesis
  • User assumptions being made (which are then validated at a later stage)
  • Any technical considerations
  • Brief sketch of the page
  • Reference to relevant user stories

You’ll create many user journeys within a project because these are isolated diagrams that purely focus on how to complete one specific key task identified. Of course there are times when you need to consider the impact of how a user navigates seamlessly from one task to another but this isn’t the role of a user journey. That role is performed by User Flows (created before user journeys), which helps to represent a key summary of the flow between all pages in completing the large amount of varying tasks within the context of one product.

User journeys (and flows) are typically defined and created before wireframing, and are ideally informed following formative research. Once user journeys have been created, these help speed up the wireframe creation phase because we would have already gone through the thought process of understanding the main objective of the page, the key tasks someone is looking to complete, key features & functionality wanted by the users and what user stories should be reflected.

Let’s talk.


Get in touch with our Head of XD, Andy Wilby, to discuss more about how we can help your businesses or organisation reimagine the experiences with your customers or citizens, across digital and non-digital touch-points.

Andy Wilby | Head of Experience Design

07595 878876


Helping our clients achieve their aspirations…

Wealth Adviser Platform: We’ve been working with leading investment platform providers for many years, where we started to shape the future of how IFAs manage their clients' portfolios...

Find out more

Currency Exchange: We have helped shape and design a new FinTech proposition that will allow users to transfer money via Gold, to anyone in the world, increasing security and reducing cost...

Find out more