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Tool KitQuick StartI need to identify where people are getting stuck

I need to identify where people are getting stuck

Need a breakthrough to help get you to the next step? These tools will help you uncover positive and negative points on your journey so you can move forward.


Journey Mapping

Journey Mapping is about identifying each step a customer takes when trying to complete a particular task.

This tool is used in combination with Research Download to help you better understand the entire process and identify opportunities for improvement at each step.

Example: Let’s say that a corner store wants to understand why their milk sales decreased in the last several months.

To understand the issue, we need to lay out all the steps involved in the process of buying milk.

Successful Journey Mapping

To create a comprehensive Journey Map, write out each step in the process — one per page — for the challenge you’re trying to solve. Limit the steps to no more than ten. If you find you have more steps, break them into multiple journeys.

Once you’ve created your Journey Map, refer to the insight you collected during Research Download and place each insight on the corresponding step in your Journey Map.

For example, if one of your insights mentions that the milk is hard to find in the store, you would place that on the step in the Journey Map associated with “locating milk.”

Once you have organized all of your insights, you may notice recurrent themes. These insights will help you narrow the ideas you need to solve this problem.

People Mapping

To really be an effective problem-solver, you must understand the people at the center — and on the fringes — of your challenge or project.

Think about the following:

  • The main set of people you’re trying to impact
  • Your target customers
  • The people surrounding the challenge
  • The people with a deeper understanding of, or connection to, your subject

Three Steps to Start People Mapping

  1. Grab sticky notes and start by writing down the name of the main user and placing it in the center of the wall.
  2. Write down one person or group of people necessary to the challenge or project (one per sticky) and post them around the main user. Continue this step until you have identified all relevant people or groups.
  3. This map will become the basis for interviews and observations.

People Mapping

Ready to start People Mapping? Use this worksheet as a guide.

Download PDF

Customer Shoes

Whoever said, “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,” was right on the mark.

One of the best ways to gather information about your challenge is to experience it for yourself. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and gather your own insight firsthand. It’s one of the best ways to gather meaningful insight into your challenge.

Example: If your challenge is improving the customer experience when buying vitamins at your local drug store, go be the customer. Shop around and see what it’s like: Is it easy to find what you’re looking for? Is the selection overwhelming? Or, is it so well organized that it’s easy to look through all the options and make a selection?

How to Step into Your Customer’s Shoes

  • Think about what it is you want to learn more about and what challenge you are trying to solve. Try to anticipate the kinds of questions a customer might have.
  • Think about how you can put yourself in that role. Consider the time of day you’ll get the best results, the time it will take under optimal conditions, and what types of challenges you may face.
  • Go out and do it! Make it a fact-finding adventure.
  • Record what you learned. Your observations will help you develop interview questions and inform your research.


When it comes to problem-solving, what people do is just as important as what they say.

For example, people will sometimes forget steps when describing how they do something. Or, they may explain something one way, and do it a different way… without even noticing!

By observing people, you can see exactly how they engage with your challenge.

Example: If you’re designing a new shopping cart for a supermarket, a shopper may describe how they shop but forget to point out that they often carry a cup of coffee, which makes it hard to push the cart with one hand. If you observe the shopper, you’d notice that detail.

Three Steps for Observation

  1. Identify what activities you want to observe and where to do it. Natural environments are ideal because they allow you to see how people are really interacting.
  2. Let the users know you’ll be observing, if necessary. In settings like stores or malls, you can unobtrusively gather information by observing from afar. If you’re watching someone use a website or a similar close-up observation, you’ll want to set it up ahead of time.
  3. Take detailed notes about what you observe, so you can refer back to them in your Research Download.


One of the best ways to understand people is to talk to them.

Conducting interviews is a key part of doing primary research and learning what people want and need. Interviewing also helps identify barriers and obstacles that provide an opportunity for improvement.

Three Steps to Ace Interviewing

  1. Think about what you want to learn and use that as a starting point to write a list of five to seven questions.
  2. Schedule 30-minute time slots with interviewees and go prepared with your questions.
  3. Let the interviewee know that you’ll be taking notes. You can also ask to record the interview if you think you’ll want to go back to refer to it later.

Top Tips for Interviewing

  • Make sure to think about everyone who has a relationship to your challenge. People Mapping will help you identify those you need to connect with.
  • Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no.
  • Use the phrase “tell me more” to get your interviewee to elaborate and provide additional information.
  • Stay on track! You may be enjoying your interview… especially if your interview subject is interesting and engaging. But, don’t forget the reason for the interview. Your goal is to learn as much as possible.
  • Ask the interviewee to tell you a story about the last time they were in a situation, used a product, followed a service, or did anything related to what you’re trying to learn.
  • Take very detailed notes of your conversation so you can refer back to them. If you only jot down the theme of your conversation, you may lose the substance of what your interviewee shared.
  • Consider going as a team of two to each interview — one person can speak and the other can take notes.
  • Write down your interviewees’ age, gender, and whatever else might be noteworthy about that person (e.g., Does the fact your interviewee is a mom of two inform her opinion?). This will allow you to segment your insight, and better develop solutions for different populations.


Ready to talk? Use this worksheet to guide your Interviewing.

Download PDF

Related Worlds

When it’s time to tackle your challenge, it helps to have a stimulus to spark amazing ideas.

The Related Worlds exercise helps you look at ways other industries have solved similar problems, so you can apply those principles to your issue.

Example: A hospital rethinking their patient experience may want to look at the ways five-star hotels, luxury car dealerships, and country clubs treat their guests. While a hospital’s purpose is different from these other places, hospitals could learn a lot about a premier guest experience by looking at how car dealerships greet customers, how a luxury hotel moves people from check-in to their rooms, and how a country club makes members feel like they belong.

Three Steps for Coming Up with Related Worlds

  1. Think about the crux of your challenge. Is it about providing a superior customer experience? Is it about building loyalty among your users?
  2. Think about other industries that have nailed that challenge. Consider the similarities between your organizations and the differences.
  3. Make a list of ways other industries excelled in that area and how you can apply those principles to your solutions.