A User Persona on a User Journey & the Art of Baking a Chocolate Cake

Author by Damon Sanchez

If you haven’t been born with extraordinary baking skills chances are when you’re attempting to make a cake you’ll have to consult the instructions.  This isn’t by chance, this is because baking a cake is somewhat difficult.  Companies like Betty Crocker have spent close to a 100 years perfecting the way their brand presents cooking instructions so the less fortunate bakers of the world can make a cake for loved ones.
Icons indicating cups, and teaspoons, eggs and butter, oil and the shape of the pan all have a place in the step-by-step directions that in no time at all lead a user to the final stages of frosting a chocolatey object of perfection.
There is no better example of trying to understand the power of a User Journey than Baking Directions in that there are certain steps that make logical sense and some steps that are put forth because they help someone feel comfortable in understanding the process.
In terms of User Experience this is a pretty amazing process to have bottled up and mastered for Betty Crocker in that, not only has the right visual iconography been used to invoke an emotional connection, but also in the simplification of a process so that anyone can follow it.

So How Does Betty Crocker Do it?

In previous blog posts we’ve talked about understanding UI and UX Design by viewing these topics through the lens of scientific methodology and asking questions.  While it is true that identifying essential data can be flushed out through asking Core UI and UX questions in some cases these questions alone are not enough accurately render a user Interface and Experience.
This is where a User Journey or Story comes in really handy, and in theory is the magic mojo behind Betty Crocker’s claim to fame.
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The UI/UX workshop is fairly simple and starts by outlining what goals the User is trying to accomplish and then documenting the various phases of the process into bite size chunks of retainable actions.
As an example of this is what the User Journey would look like for someone logging into an E-Commerce site. Notice I have stepped away from chocolate cake analogies… because I’m getting hungry…

Example User Journey

Sally has tried to buy music online, but her credit card has expired.  She needs to log into her account and change the credit card information.  She is in the car about to go on vacation and really wants to listen to an album on the long drive.
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  • Sally goes to her smart phone
  • She types in the url to her favorite Music Ecommerce site
  • She logs into the site
  • Once she is logged in she notices the account icon in the top right hand corner
  • Upon clicking on the icon she is presented with a modal window with tabs that contain all of her account information.
  • She clicks on the credit card tab, and the credit card information shows up
  • She enters her new credit card information and hits save
  • She clicks on the Music Marketplace app in the bottom row, and does a search for her favorite band
  • The search results come back and she clicks on the band she wants to listen to on her vacation
  • She is presented with the check-out cart which asks her if she is ready to pay with her updated credit card

Download This Text Example of Sally’s User Journey
You can see how in just a few phases the User Journey becomes a valuable walk through which at first glance has a simplistic motive of buying music.  Purchasing the music could be the revenue driven Business Goal, the quick Persona of Sally could be the statistical average of the Primary User Group and the Identified User Tasks could be updating a credit card or buying music.
From a UI perspective this simple User Journey is loaded with actions that require a specific UI Element to do some heavy lifting.  Date pickers, State drop downs, Numerical steppers, Radio Buttons all of which will help Sally accomplish her goals quicker and easier.
Core UI and UX questions are key tools for better understanding your audience and identifying their tasks, but it is a User Journey that helps to distill the process of accomplishing those tasks.

BF Skinner conditioned pigeons to know how to push the correct buttons to get food.  A UX Designer conditions people to take actions that facilitate the experiences we are trying to create.
- Erik Flowers – UX Designer/ UX Psychologist

Obviously human users are thousands of times more complex than Skinner’s pigeons, but the same procedural concepts apply when trying to captivate the attention of a user and walk them through a series of steps that condition them to achieve their desired outcome.
In complicated environments the trifecta of the Questions, the Persona of the user and the Journey together create an atmosphere that can accurately define what UI elements are needed and how to steer a User Experience through visuals design language.
In my next blog post we will be discussing the fun and sometimes comical nature of User Personasand how to construct them based on the Core UI and UX Questions and how to weave them into a User Journey or Story.