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The design process is broken.

Map it out.

My father-in-law keeps a paper map in his car. He believes in being prepared. A paper map doesn't need batteries or a signal, but it does require you to manually work out where you are and how to get to your destination.

Compare that to a digital map, where all you have to do is enter your destination. It'll tell you exactly how to get there with step-by-step guidance. A digital map will also give you a heads up on any issues along the way, like traffic jams, speed traps, or construction.

People that grew up before GPS and smartphones might remember a third way to navigate: MapQuest. Here’s how it worked: you would search for your destination on MapQuest .com (on a computer) and then print out a list of directions. You would then risk your life by trying to read this list and driving on unfamiliar roads at the same time. If you missed a turn, your printouts became useless.

The way we build software today is like using MapQuest.

We are pretty good at figuring out where we are (discovery) and where we want to go (framing). But the way we travel between these two steps is broken.

We travel between the initial state and the desired state using artifacts like roadmaps, requirements, wireframes, backlogs, decks, etc. These artifacts align our team's thinking. But like our MapQuest printouts, they are static. We waste time manually updating these artifacts—copy-pasting, linking, and screenshotting information across tools.

We can’t solve problems effectively without up-to-date artifacts, so we do both at the same time. Doing neither well. This juggling act results in poor communication, low team morale, missed deadlines, subpar customer experiences and eventually, lost revenue.

We need to centralize our thinking in one place: a live customer journey map.

No customers = no business. The customer journey must be the single source of truth for all product context and decisions.

Ideally, the entire team works within the same journey map: communicating, documenting and problem-solving. Like the digital map, we can then see the latest data like customer feedback, metrics, features and user stories layered onto this journey map. We wouldn’t need to maintain separate artifacts like roadmaps or backlogs, because they would simply be different views of the same journey map.

Unfortunately, SaaS tools reinforce our siloed ways of working. And these tools are not incentivized to talk to each other.

Until that changes, manually figuring out our journey is still a valuable skill for both paper maps and design.

Map it out.

I tweaked this on Fri Apr 19 2024 03:25:39 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)