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Promised an experience; given a map: Filing a Tax Return Experience Map (Part B)

8 November, 2011

In my last post: Promised the world; given an atlas: A personal service experience (Part A) I shared my service experience as I attempted to file a tax return online in a new country. In this post I share how I captured that research as a Customer Experience Map.

Interestingly as I worked on the mapping, it emerged that this post and the experience of capturing the experience provided additional sub-parts that have occupied my thinking. Therefore Part B consists of two sub-parts:

  1. The presentation of a map of current state experience, fully prefaced with a raft of disclaimers to qualify its existence
  2. A postscript on the daily, sometimes hourly, round of inputs from other designers, design thinking, stimuli. Be it tweets, links, emails, thoughts, challenges, conversations. Sometimes they knock your thinking off its tracks in a good way, and sometimes they just get in the way.


Mapping the experience was (as it always is) challenging. Usually the research and mapping would be developed as part of a larger problem-solving/opportunity-leveraging activity. BAs, EAs, other change agents, would be performing corresponding requirement descriptors (process modeling, architecture maps, etc) and collaborative conversations would occur daily.

In that context here are some disclaimers to the map I’ve produced:

  • I did this map on my own – normally a team of designers would have conducted the research – background, field, other. They would have got in a room and gone through a series of analysis and synthesis activities. Frameworks would emerge, further investigation may ensue. While I did a version of these activities this map represents my unmediated, unchallenged view. I never recommend taking a single source as a definitive view – no one person can cover all the bases. In my opinion, design is always better done as a good or ‘bad’ collaboration.
  • There is only one source of data for this map – my experience of doing one thing (filing online). That fact alone means that the quality of the data should be questioned. I don’t even know if I’m an extreme or middle-ground user.
  • This map was not done for an organisation with a problem to solve or service to change, accordingly there is no corresponding service blueprint that provides a view of how the service works from an inside-out view. For any real change to occur, a map alone is not useful as the information is not qualified by the reality check of why certain things are the way they are.

I’m not going to describe what’s in the map and what it might mean because my intention in the final part of this three-part post (which may not occur too rapidly given the effort the first two posts took) will be applying the map information and research knowledge to a change activity. (Check out my post on Customer Experience Maps as a technique if you want ‘how to’ detail or this excellent Journey Map resources on the Web (and if your confused about maps vs journeys here’s my take on that too)).

If you’re new to maps, what I will say is the data from the research has been extrapolated out into a framework of the experience phases. These phases feature the elements of the experience (what is thought about, what is used, what is done). It’s a map so it doesn’t show you where you’re going – it shows you the landscape you’re travelling on and through – highlights and low lights. You can choose to bypass or take these into account when you’re planning a trip (or to change the landscape). That’s the theory (and practice) and I’ll do this in my next post.


In the time it has taken me to do the map I have been plagued by self-doubt – is this really saying anything? It started when I watched a TED video of Daniel Kahneman on The Riddle of Experience vs Memory last week. Does this mean even the process of interviewing is fraught with inaccuracy when the remembering-self can differ so greatly from the experiencing self?

Then this morning I looked at the most excellent Dan Saffer slide presso on The Complexity of Simplicity and I thought “Is this map providing a ‘Wow!’ or an ‘Of Course’?” (I aspire to the latter).

Even at work there are different conversations about visualising information and I’m reminded of the Louis CK, take on Twitter I watched the other day which resonated strongly with me because sometimes that’s how I feel and that maybe “everything that’s available to do isn’t a good idea.” I mean, I love the stimulus and the ideas and thinking flying around. But sometimes….sometimes, it’s enough already.

I’m a functional gal. I don’t want to change the world, I just want to make a difference (and thereby change bits of the world ; ). And I do question whether I’m just adding more ‘whatever’ to my discipline, or whether I am adding something of substance, or, if nothing else a useful point of view. I think it’s important to question yourself, your process, your faith in false gods/techniques. We do that as Designers all the time to services, experiences, strategies. We should do it to ourselves. Not for the answers, just for the questions. Not for more outputs, but for better outcomes.

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