The User's Journey

🧑‍🎨 Creator(s)
🗓️ Publish Date
February 15, 2005
📚 Publisher(s)

🗃️ Archival copy:


Lord of the Rings. Starwars. NeverWhere.

A beer commercial. Linux. College.

Viagra ads. Learning Java. Starting a business.

What do they all have in common?

Things are normal. Things become challenging. Thanks to the help of friends and perhaps a mentor/wizard, you're able to overcome the challenges. You return to the new and improved normal. A hero.

What would happen if developers/marketers/teachers tried to help users experience a kind of a hero's journey, and offered a way to help them through each stage? Unfortunately, too many products or services don't give the user a chance to get past the initial crises ("Help! I can't make your product work!"), and the user never ends up... a hero. They end up failing. Quitting. The "I Suck" experience instead of "I Rule!" And since users are increasingly less likely to take all the blame, your company or product is Sauron. Sure, the user was defeated... but only because Your Company Is Evil. As a developer of learning experiences, I desperately don't want to be the enemy. (I always fancied the trickster role though...)

The opposite (and sometimes just as bad) experience is where your product or service offers nothing interesting or challenging, or it doesn't try to at least inspire the user to do something interesting or challenging with it. No Challenge = No Hero.

One of the most powerful aspects of the Hero's Journey is that the hero comes out the other side better than he was before. (Or as Michael puts it... bigger.) Are you supplying a reasonable challenge, and then offering a way to move through the stages of that challenge and ultimately come out changed for the better?

Obviously not all products and services are--or need to be--particularly inspiring and challenging. I'm thinking toilet paper doesn't need to, um, take me on a journey. But... that doesn't mean there isn't a way for a company with an utterly (and ideally) unchallenging product to be associated with something meaningful. Something that upgrades the lives of their users.

The user's journey doesn't have to be about the product. It can be about something related to the ingredients in the product, or the design, or the company, or the employees, or causes supported by the company or...

If your product or service is daunting for users, or what they do with the product or service is challenging, you can welcome that as a great opportunity to give users the "I Rule!" experience. It means you'll have a much easier time taking them on a little hero's journey. If your product or service (or what users might do with it) is not challenging, then you can still ask, "What can I do to inspire our users to take on a new challenge?", and then somehow craft a challenge (suggestion: teaching your users something cool and rewarding is often an easy answer).

So, what are you doing to help your users on a hero's journey? What can you do to associate what you do/make/sell/write/build with a hero's journey? What can you do to help your user through the "I Suck" phase and into the "I Rule!" phase?