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 will 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 a 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 or event across a range of screens/devices through a varying timescale. Within the world of CX (read our blog about 'What is CX') and UX, we should always look to clearly distinguish between a Customer Journey and a User Journey.

Customer Journeys - used in CX

A customer journey is where we start to understand and plot a customer's complete involvement in how they interact with the product (before, during and after). Across a high-level view, we plot the emotions they'll be feeling at different stages, the device types they would typically use, any drivers as to why someone would potentially be looking to complete a 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.

Customer Journeys are typically created and defined during the very early stages of the project as we start to conceptualise how someone is going to interact with the proposed product/service, and ultimately start to understand what would trigger this engagement. But this is a living document and remains relevant right through the project.

User Journeys - used in UX

A user journey is where we start to document the detail of how we want people to complete a specific key task within a specific situation, such as documenting the steps in how a user can get a car insurance quote. These user journeys detail the objectives of each page/step, key features & functionality to aid completion of the page, assumptions being made (which we then validate at a later stage with users - read our UX blog on different ways to conduct evaluative research), any technical considerations, brief sketch of the page and ideally a 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 the specific task. Of course there are times when you need to consider the impact of how a user navigates seemlessly 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.

User journeys are typically defined and created in the early stages of the project, 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.

We work with clients across Health, Retail and Finance, where customer and user journeys play a key role within the project to define the experience and help deliver a truly customer-centric solution. Get in touch to see how we can help shape your solution utilising our bespoke software development and user experience (UX) services and expertise.

More CX and UX blogs

What is Customer Experience (CX)

How our Experience Design team are shaping the future of payments

Proving success by defining benchmarks

The different ways to gather evaluative feedback

The role of a UX designer

Want to hear more?

If you want to hear more about how our CX and UX services and expertise can help your business deliver relevant, innovative and disruptive experiences then contact our Principal CX & UX Consultant, Andy Wilby, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 07595 878876.

About the Author...

Andy has been a CX and UX professional for over 12 years, who has a great deal of experience helping shape usable experiences for HSBC, Aviva, NHS, Bupa, Co-op and Government agencies to name a few. Previous to joining Answer Digital, he was a Lead UX at Aviva for a 45-strong team of designers. His passion is working with clients to help solve complicated challenges and create something beautifully simple.