Conversation Mapping

Conversation mapping is a technique for designing content-first that helps you think about a process from a user's perspective through the natural interface of conversation.


Write out an imagined conversation (or better yet, try with an actual user) between whatever you're designing and a user who is trying to accomplish a specific goal. It can be a faux script in a document or as simple as sitting down and having a conversation with someone, with one person taking on the role of the tool.

Once done, the conversation can be refined into content for a user flow and help you identify key steps for getting users what they need. From there, you can get down and dirty with laying out concepts. Armed with your conversation turned interface, it's a matter of testing and iterating to create something that matches your users natural process and thoughts rather than yours.

Best for...

  • Getting into a problem from the user's perspective and gaining an understanding for their goals, questions, needs, and struggles.
  • Learning how to speak the users' language (words, tone, knowledge level)
  • Identifying key steps in a user flow.
  • Identifying user questions and what they need to know at different stages in the flow.
  • Refining content and calls to action.
  • Getting copywriters and designers (if they are separate teams) involved and working together at an early stage.

In my experience

I haven't done much formal conversation mapping but I am a big proponent of starting content-first. Especially when it comes to lengthy user flows, I prefer to start with user questions and figuring out what they need to know (sometimes vs what the system needs to know) to break down into steps before even thinking about sketching. Now that I know there's an actual technique centred around conversation, though, I'm eager to try out a more formal approach and map out a longform conversation (preferably with actual users, though, or risk my inner roleplaying nerd coming out and not getting nearly as much benefit from the exercise).