The Customer Journey - A Kata

Expertise isn't so much the result of talent as it is experience. Applying a methodology to a design problem over and over again refines that method, our understanding of it. Good methodology holds-up to the scrutiny of folks coming to it for the first time, but good user experience design is the result of a good methodology in the hands of someone familiar with it.

We get better at user experience design by doing. We get the gist through reading, or through webinars, in certification or graduate programs in which solving design problems are part of curriculum. But we only really get better by doing when this skill-set is called on in our jobs, which for many of us the odd experience-design task is just one in the shuffle.

So, how do user experience designers keep sharp?

Developers have code kata. Inspired from the same practice in martial arts of consistently returning to and repeating an exercise over, and over, and over again, perfecting form, code katas are short challenges that can be solved in a number of ways, which may have better but not singularly correct solutions. You are meant to try as many times as it takes, without interruption, make mistakes comfortably and learn from them. This is why it is hard to practice in a project environment, because there are stakes other than your improvement.

How cool would it be if we had UX kata? I made one, aaaand I would love your help giving it the ol' college try. I am not entirely sure what makes a user experience kata good, so if some of you want to give it a spin I would love your feedback.

The Customer Journey - a Kata

Understanding our customer [or user or patron or whatever] journey is sort of at the core of good user experience design. To improve the user experience by knowing what part of a service or feature needs attention, how that service or feature is used, with a whiff of context surrounding that use, is the difference between success and failure. If your understanding of the customer journey is wrong, you're wasting your money, your time, on the wrong thing.

How we come to understand that journey takes many forms. We interview (and we interview with different angles), we observe, we map. Some methods have more bang for their buck, but the full shape of the journey emerges only through the use of them all.

These journeys are rarely linear and increasingly manifest across multiple channels.


On the day before Thanksgiving, Elliot - responsible for hosting this year's dinner - realized his pantry was a little bare. In the interest of saving time he used his grocery store's app to have his groceries delivered. He also had the latest newspaper insert -- the only thing he keeps form that jumble of junk mail -- that listed all of that week's BOGO items, which weren't represented online. The items were delivered an hour later by a nice stranger. Elliot noticed there were extra items in the bag that he was charged for but didn't order, and he had to call the local chain -- first by looking-it up in the app, but not knowing its designation number the number was easier to google -- then make arrangements to drop off the items and get a refund at the customer service desk.


You have thirty minutes to represent this journey comprehensively.


In performing this kata, meditate on the following:

  1. As you map or otherwise represent this journey in another medium, pay attention to which aspects of this journey are difficult to communicate with your approach. Are certain aspects more important to represent than others?

  2. What can you say about the merits of the technique you chose? When is it the right approach? When is it not?

  3. How could you better perform this technique? Where can you improve? What do you do well? Is it speed? Is it quality? Is it comprehensiveness?

So, what do you think? The intention is that this doesn't require a lot of your time - you can always find thirty minutes a week, or whenever. Also, it is meant to be repeatable. You might either use the same approach over and over again until you're comfortable, or you might try a bunch and be better prepared to identify the right tool for the job.

Next week, I'll solve it.

In the meantime, if you take a crack at it, shoot me an email with a screenshot or just your thoughts! If you're in libraries and you want to blog about your experience ^, I think it'd be an awesome addition to LibUX: If you're interested, let me know.

For those of you in the U.S., happy Thanksgiving! I wish you all the best.

Your pal,


P.S. Hey there! Consider supporting this newsletter aaand some podcasts and webinars and LibUX and other stuff on patreon: A $1 goes a long way, and I do giveaways and stuff.