How to conduct a user journey walkthrough using personas

August 23, 2017 11:37 am

How to conduct a user journey walkthrough using personas

A User Journey Walkthrough is a great way to put yourself in your users shoes, and using a persona is the ideal way to do this. A persona allows you to focus on your users, therefore keeping their goals and needs at the forefront of the Walkthrough. A persona is based on findings from user research, and can also combine analytics and other customer information. As the purpose of this article is to show you how to use the User Journey Walkthrough methodology, here is one I created earlier:

Fig 1: Savvy Sally persona.

The walkthrough

A powerful way to get us into the mindset of users is by conducting a User Journey Walkthrough. Not only does a User Journey Walkthrough provide an overview of the entire user experience, but it makes it clear that users are trying to achieve a goal, and your website or app is just a part of that journey. Thinking in terms of goals, instead of functions, helps us identify good and bad parts of the experience.

When conducting a Walkthrough it’s important to keep in mind the overall goal of the user. Once you have decided this, try and break this down into multiple stages. It may be helpful to split the User Journey into the users ‘Thoughts’, ‘Actions’ and ‘Needs’ are they progress through the site:

  • What thoughts does the user have that may trigger them onto a website?
  • What action do they take on the website?
  • What needs are they trying to accomplish?

This section of the user journey walkthrough could be separated into a section such as ‘Behaviour before landing on the website’. This will differentiate the Thoughts, Actions and Needs which could lead to users landing onto the website, from their Thoughts, Actions and Needs once on the website.

“I need an outfit for the weekend.”

Let’s take our Savvy Shopper and consider how their journey may start. For instance, Sally may be looking for an outfit for an event at the weekend. As we know from our persona Sally is a frequent browser of social media for inspiration; to see what her favourite bloggers are wearing. Sally’s thoughts may be: ‘I need an outfit for this weekend’. Her actions may be to open up Instagram to look for some inspiration in her feed. She wants to find inspiration within her feed, but when she finds that inspiration she needs a way to engage with that. Instagram’s ‘Shop Now’ feature allows Sally to engage with the content she sees, providing a quick link straight through to the clothes being shown in the image.

In creating a persona you may include information from analytics about how many users reach the website from external apps and sites, e.g. 25% of users come from Instagram advertising. Savvy Sally may represent some of the behaviours of that 25%.

Fig 2: Instagram’s ‘Shop now’ feature provides users with a direct link to purchase the clothes advertised throughout the app.

By following a link directly from the app to the website, Sally’s Thoughts, Actions and Needs have now changed. Sally may now be thinking:

  • ‘How do I get started looking for some suitable clothing?’.
  • Her actions may be to go directly to the navigation, as she is familiar with using this to move around other websites.
  • Her needs may be to find a suitable item on the website.

“How do I get started looking for some suitable clothing?”

Fig 3: Homepage view once landing on ‘InTheStyle’.

Fig 4: Open hamburger menu on ‘InTheStyle’.

Due to her extensive time spent browsing the web on mobile, Sally is familiar with the hamburger menu icon to get started from the website. Upon opening the menu Sally may be pleased to see an option labelled as ‘Trends’, as from her persona we know one of her goals is to find the latest fashion trends.

After selecting the ‘Trends’ category, Sally has a new set of Thoughts, Actions and Needs.

  • Sally may be wondering if the website offers clothing in the style appropriate for her event.
  • Her actions may be to filter down the results so only appropriate items are shown.
  • Sally’s needs at this point are to find a selection of possible outfits for her event.

Once on the product page, the option to filter is not immediately obvious to the user. In order to do this, the user must go into the ‘Browse by’ section, which allows them to narrow down the results into specific Trends. However, users such as Sally who spend a lot of time shopping online may be more familiar with wording such as ‘Filter’ or ‘Refine’, and therefore the option allowing them to do this may not be initially obvious.

When conducting a User Journey Walkthrough it can be useful to make notes of points when users may ‘Drop-off’ from the journey. These are times when the user is struggling to meet their needs using the website, and therefore may leave the website in favour of using an alternative method to meet their needs. When the need to filter occurs on the ‘InTheStyle’ website a potential drop-off is identified.

Fig 5: ‘Trends’ product page. ‘

Fig 6: ‘Browse by’ menu opened.

“I’m looking for something from my favourite Blogger.’

While the option to filter is difficult for the user to find, once within the ‘Browse by’ menu the options available within here provide Sally with many different options. ‘Blogger Faves’ may appeal to Sally as she spends a lot of time browsing social media looking for inspiration, and therefore will be familiar with the Bloggers and the items displayed within this section of the website. Sally may be thinking:

  • ‘I’m looking for something from my favourite Blogger.’
  • Her actions may be to scroll through the products displayed for the outfit she is looking for. She may even visit the Blogger’s Instagram page to check the image for recognition.
  • Her needs will be to buy the outfit in her size.

Fig 7: ‘Blogger Faves’ category.

When landing on the ‘Blogger Faves’ section on the website, Sally may struggle to find the outfit she is looking for. Sally wants to easily recognise which outfits she has seen on which Blogger, however as the website uses their own product photos, this may make it difficult for Sally to recognise the outfit, or she may abandon this way of finding an outfit altogether.

An alternative way this could have been done can be seen on the MissPap website. Products favoured by fashion Bloggers are featured on the website under the tag ‘Blogger Style’, and these are indicated with a coloured bar. MissPap also uses the Bloggers photos of them in the outfit, so they are recognizable from the Instagram image the user may have seen of the outfit. The combination of Bloggers images and the coloured bars makes it quick and easy for users to recognise when they scroll past one of these items, as they are visually indicated.

Fig 8: MissPap indicates to users Blogger favourites, by including a banner underneath these items.

The User Journey Walkthrough would continue in a similar format, considering the users Thoughts, Actions and Needs at each stage throughout the journey. After completing the ‘Experience on the site’ section of the walkthrough, the final stage may detail users experience with the ‘Conversion’ aspect; which would include progressing through to payment and any communication received by the company ahead of receiving their items.

After completing the User Journey Walkthrough the final output may look something similar to this:

Fig 9: Visualised User Journey

The users flow through the website should have been successfully captured, in line with their needs from the website. Any drop-off points should also be identified for immediate action to reduce the risk of this occurring. This output can then be used to inspire team members to focus on the user’s needs, hypothesise users actions and identify areas to focus on during the design phase.


Hopefully you should now feel confident conducting a User Journey Walkthrough to help you evaluate your website using user personas, and see the value of this method. It’s always important to keep in mind the Thoughts, Actions and Needs of your users as you walk-through the website, to help you understand areas of drop-off on the site. By using personas to walk-through your website you’ll always have the users’ needs at the front of any decisions made regarding the user experience. But always remember these are hypothesis journeys, and user testing can be used to check the outcomes of a User Journey Walkthrough, by observing actual users on your website to understand if you have successfully understood their needs, and to help validate your work.