Driving more valuable customer journeys with emotion mapping – Part 2

In the last post we introduced Plutchik’s emotion wheel and added some scoring to it in order to make it more useful for us when designing products or services. In this part we will look at how we can take that tool and use it to enhance our understanding of customer journeys.

Quantifying the customer journey

For most journeys we can assume the user starts at an emotional state of 0, or neutral. However, it is important to think about the situations and environments in which the users are interacting with your system. Let’s take the example of a time sheet system for employees to use at work. It is possible the user has just been told in a meeting they will not be getting a Christmas bonus this year. This puts them in an emotional state of anger, or -2.

It’s definitely worth thinking of a few of these extreme scenarios and making sure your journeys leave the users in a better emotional state then when they started, or certainly don’t make it any worse!

Let’s take our registration example and see how we can map the changes in the user’s state across a basic journey.

This customer journey shows how we can map emotions to different steps

As we can see, the registration process and purchasing process has left our user in an emotional state of +4, giving him an overall positive experience. Personas really come into their own using this method, as you can start to explore how different people interact emotionally with your designs.

The wheel as a support to user testing

Whilst UX professionals would advocate user testing on any development undertaken, in the commercial world this is sometimes unfortunately seen as a luxury.

In such cases this technique also has value as a sanity check, as part of a more conventional emotion mapping exercise on developed sites or designs, prototypes and wireframes. In this way we can see if these are meeting the objectives of the user personas that have been created.

Let’s look at an example of someone who is looking at the Oxfam website (www.oxfam.org.uk) to find out about how they can help after seeing an advert on TV. They begin the interaction in a state of interest (+1) at what the charity does.

It can also help guide you in business decisions about certain functionality or features. If a client really pushes for a feature, but you can demonstrate in the user journeys that the feature will actually leave the user in a lower emotional state because of it, your argument will carry a lot more weight.

Use emotion mapping as a supplement to user testing

Try it with a persona who wants to get in contact to reduce their monthly donations, as they just found out too much money is being taken from their account , and the page tells a different story.

A different persona yields different scores
A different persona yields different scores

The user begins the interaction in a state of anger at (-2). Any donation messages are now adding to their aggravation, and there is little trust left to counterbalance the negative emotions. To make matters worse there is no contact link easily available. The user ends up with an emotion score of -6. This page is maybe not working as hard as it could for this particular use case.


Quantifying emotion is a tricky thing, and often it’s quite intangible. Without years of experience in behavioural psychology it’s difficult to get a grip on user’s emotions, even when you are observing them directly.

However, the benefits of an emotionally impactful customer journey are real and can be measured in increased conversion rates and often thousands or millions of pounds!

By using this method can go some way towards creating more persuasive journeys that leave customers with more positive feelings about the brand at their end. And after all isn’t that he point? Positive experiences lead to heightened audience engagement, brand loyalty and ultimately customer value.

* This post is adapted from my whitepaper published in 2012