No matter what product you’re building, no matter the size of your team, we’ve seen a few universal truths to being a product manager:
Users do weird and surprising stuff all the time.
It’s all about prioritization.
Storytelling is a superpower
That’s why we’re so excited to introduce Journeys, Heap’s newest chart type for mapping out customer behavior. We’ve built journeys around each of these universal truths so it’ll be the perfect tool for making impactful product choices, rooted in real customer behavior. Over the next few weeks we’ll dig deep into each of these truths and show you how you can use journeys in Heap to navigate these product realities.
Truth #1: Users do weird and surprising stuff all the time.
No matter how much careful planning, designing, researching, prototyping, and QA testing you do, you can guarantee users will do something downright weird in your product. They’ll find weird edge cases. They’ll develop business critical workflows that are actually hacks that you’ll only learn about when you accidentally break them months from now. They’ll misunderstand, take shortcuts, get lost, or cook up use cases you couldn’t have dreamt of.
Most of us can find the humor or at least the fun puzzle to solve in this, but the real dark side of this universal truth is that if you don’t react to these surprises, you’re under-serving your customers and you’ll fall behind. Your customers are telling you crucial information about what they want, what they assume, and what they need. If you don’t address those needs, another competitor will.
Smart PMs & product teams see the surprising patterns and dig in. Think about Netflix realizing that users would binge TV shows back to back to back. Users did something surprising, and identifying, then leveraging that key insight changed Netflix’s entire product strategy. Surely TV networks could have identified similar patterns (in interviews, from DVD sales, etc.) but missing out on this key, surprising user pattern saw them stuck in the past as Netflix innovated.
So what’s the old way to solve this?
When you’re launching a new feature, you, your team, and your boss are after impact—to move that retention needle, to grow revenue, to get those new users. Every week spent testing to reduce surprises, every day spent analyzing data is time you’re not actually seeing impact. It shouldn’t be this hard.
Old Way #1: Do more testing to reduce risk. Put it in front of users more! Run a survey! A/B test it! Roll it out to only 20% of users and see what the impact is.
We say: All of these are amazing ways to better understand your users but it’s costly. Every week spent testing is a week you aren’t moving the needle. There’s no signpost that says you’ve hit the point of diminishing returns.
Great product builders can find the balance of testing & research, but know that putting products live in front of users is the most effective way to drive impact and truly learn.
Old Way #2: Mastermind your launch. Tag every possible step or action, and dig into the data to understand surprising behaviors or anomalies.
We say: Meticulously tagging a launch, and then sifting through overwhelming paths reports and spreadsheets is tedious, slow, and error prone.
Journeys: Your copilot in navigating uncharted user behaviors
What if it were easier to find and see these behaviors, without scheduling user interviews, or painstakingly tagging every single variation, or sifting through messy data? We built Journeys to solve this exact problem. Here’s how you can uncover surprising patterns.
Say you’re a PM for a photo management app, and you’re tasked with growing social engagement. Your team has been trying to get users to share and connect more so that you can grow retention and get more new users, but you’re just not seeing that impact. Here’s how you’d use Journeys to figure out what to do.
Step #1: Build out the known knowns
What are the core paths you’re trying to get users to do after landing on a certain page? Start here with what you know for certain, maybe from user interviews or from what you hope users do.
Let’s say for the photo management app, you have three social-focused paths that your new users could take: Updating a profile picture, adding a friend, and making a post. You build out a journey focused on those three paths, all in one view.
Now you can see what’s generally popular, but more specifically, we can see that most users don’t engage with any of the social features! Yikes.
Step #2. Surface surprising behaviors
Get out your red string, push pins, and a bulletin board. This is where you’ll start pulling together clues with Heap.
Maybe now you’re wondering, “If my users aren’t doing those social flows, what are they doing instead?”To answer this, we want to start exploring alternate paths. In journeys, you can start by clicking on the gray Add+.
Now we can see what are common paths that users take other than the paths you’ve already mapped out, ranked by popularity. Note that in Heap you only need to click once to see all these other paths! Because Heap has automatically captured all customer behavior on your site, we have this data ready and organized for you - all the time.
This is one of the real powers of Journeys: it can show you what your users are actually doing, not just the events you or your team thought to instrument. The old way of finding surprising paths would have you painstakingly document, instrument, and measure each of these events. Heap captures and surfaces them for you, exactly when you need them.
Maybe the first two paths catch your eye, because you want to explain what most new users do and this gets you to explaining the behavior for ~50% of your new users. You can add both of those events, “View: /explore” and “Click “Photo Editor” to the journey. Maybe you even extend the “Photo Editor” journey a bit, because you know the end of that workflow is saving an edited photo.
Step #3: Connect the dots
Now you’ve got a more complete picture of what new users are doing. Puzzle pieces are starting to come together, explaining why the social metrics are under performing:
Only 1 in 4 users start their product experience with a “social” choice (updating their profile, searching for friends, or making post)
But 1 in 3 users engage with content first (Explore, or opening up the Photo Editor). Users are voting with their feet to look at content first!
You have a sleeper success feature on your hands in the Photo Editor feature. Over half of new users who start using the photo editor feature successfully save a photo!
Something smells fishy with the “Search for Friends” path. The vast majority of users who start searching for friends fail to invite a friend, which is odd compared to the other successful flows.
You might even keep surfacing up even more surprising behaviors. Or using these events to explain why users are doing what they’re doing.
Why do users drop off? What do these new users do in between searching for friends and finding a friend that makes so many of them abandon this journey?You might click on the journey diagram in between those two events to find common steps that might explain if users get distracted or encounter errors.
Why is a feature so successful? You could even watch session replays of these first-time experiences with the photo editor -- maybe that gives you ideas around why users are choosing to edit photos first, before they make a post or find a friend.
What happens next? What do these new users do after they’ve visited /explore? you could click “Add+” after “Explore” to see what events are most common after users view that page.
Step #4: Turn a surprise into strategy
Armed with a surprising customer insight, now you need to figure out what to do about it. No one product strategy size fits all, but broadly, you might see two possible strategies emerge:
Go with the surprising flow. New users love Photo Editor and Explore! Go figure. Now that you know this, how could you double down on that behavior and make it even better, even more valuable to more customers or more valuable to your business? Some starter ideas:
Make it even more valuable to the business. If you’re trying to drive social shares, how could you add more social activity into the Photo Editor or Explore, features new users already love?
Make it more discoverable. If you’ve got a hit on your hands, how could you make it even easier to find and use those new-user favorites?
Stand out from competitors. How could you market or message Photo Editor more aggressively, knowing that you have a feature customers love?
Maximize delight. Dig into session replays or customer feedback from Photo Editor or Explore users. What do they love most about it? What do they wish was different? Could you expand its functionality to build more power users, more advocates, or happier users?
Are happy users all alike? Dig into segments of users who tend to find their way to Explore or Photo Editor vs. the social features. What differentiates them from the social users -- how they found your site, what their behavioral attributes are? What differences emerge if you ran some surveys or customer interviews? Maybe you have the makings of a new persona to go after in the market.
Change the behavior. Maybe the Photo Editor and Explore are total dead ends, and ultimately don’t help your customers or your business. Now that you know they’re enticing distractions, you could most help your users by redirecting them away from those dead ends and towards more useful paths. Some starter ideas:
Update the navigation. What is it about your experience that’s driving users to the Photo Editor or Explore? Are they too prominently located? Do their icons look more appealing, or are they more recognizable to your users? Maybe try running tests to make them less prominent, or make the social flows more attractive.
Examine your inbound users. Compare the user segments who tend to use Photo Editor or Explore with those who use social features. Are your Photo Editor and Explore users even your target audience? Are you filling the top of your funnel with users who don’t want the core product? Could your inbound targeting need any adjustments?
Reduce friction in the happy paths. Why do so many users fail to make their way down the social paths? What friction’s in the way of the Invite a User Path? Dig into common top events and session replays of dropoff at that step to understand why that path is such a dud.
Redirect attention. Maybe you can’t fight the flow of users making their way to Explore or Photo Editor, but you could redirect them. Any way to add calls to action to invite a friend from Explore, or to Make a Post from Photo Editor?
Your journey to improve your product starts…with a single journey chart.
At the end of the day, no matter what you ship or what you test, your customers will always surprise you. With journeys in Heap, you can easily and quickly identify those behaviors and actually react to what your customers are telling you -- no prolonged testing cycle, no sifting through messy path analysis, no extensive and obsessive tracking. Get curious, stay ahead of your competitors, and happy journeying!