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Find Your Way Through Experience Mapping


Find Your Way Through Experience Mapping

Aug 13, 2014By Voltaire Santos Miran

Whether you’re starting a branding initiative, overhauling some portion of your web presence, or creating new admissions or development materials, your project is likely an opportunity to address one of the core challenges of your institution by:

  • Moving the needle on crucial recruitment, retention, or fundraising goals.
  • Breaking down existing silos that hinder your ability to serve your students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
  • Establishing new or better governance models.
  • Ultimately, improving the experience that each member of your key audiences has with your institution.

As you plot your goals and your plans to reach them, consider the exercise of experience mapping — the creation and use of graphical representations of the interactions an individual has with a product or service. These maps can be low-fi sketches or beautifully illustrated works. They can focus on broad narrative arcs (for example, the entire search and selection process that a prospective undergraduate student undergoes) or a single, discrete interaction (for example, the first time a student registers for class at a community college).

Whatever their scale, experience maps can be an invaluable tool in your process. How? The answer, for me, is threefold.

First, the mapping process can draw stakeholders together from across the institution. When you’re able to involve subject matter experts from different offices and disciplines in the process of illustrating an experience, you can create a more complete and authentic picture in which you are invested as a group.

Secondly, the map itself is a powerful representation of your audience’s story. In creating an experience map, you’ll be drawing from both quantitative and qualitative data, including:

  • Direct conversations that you’ve had with people from your target audience
  • Anecdotal information from the people on the front lines — those who answer the phones and respond to emails from your constituents every day
  • Knowledge from subject matter experts in your institution
  • Survey feedback from studies you’ve completed
  • Website and social media statistics
  • Industry-wide knowledge or data from credible research studies

When you pull all of this information together, the resulting picture is a compelling representation, not only of the actions and touchpoints that are part of an experience, but also the feelings, motivations, and goals of the people that you serve.

Finally, the map becomes a guide for your priorities and activities. By revealing existing gaps and potential opportunities in the overall user experience, these maps can educate stakeholders, serve as a rallying point in discussions about improving services and processes, and drive positive changes and improvements across an entire engagement lifecycle.

Some recent insights gained through experience mapping:

  • One client used experience maps to rework the sequence of their on-campus registration process for new students.
  • Another client realized that the biggest point of improvement in their graduate application process centered on acceptance and award notices.
  • Yet another client used their experience map to inform their content strategy, editorial calendar, and selection of bloggers.

As the interactions we have with our audiences become richer and more complex, experience maps can bring new clarity, increase our understanding and empathy, and spark innovative approaches and ideas. Ultimately, we want to create experiences that inspire loyalty and action. Experience mapping can help show the way.


Content strategist, Shannon Lanus recently hosted a webinar on using experience maps to better digitally engage prospective students. The session is available for download and includes two starter-maps.

  • Voltaire Santos Miran EVP, Web Strategy I've developed and implemented communication strategies in education for more than 20 years now. I think my team at mStoner is the smartest, funniest, and coolest group of colleagues ever, and I can't imagine being anywhere else. Except Barcelona. Or Paris. Or Istanbul. To quote Isak Dinesen, "the cure for everything is salt ... tears, sweat, and the sea."