Archive 27/02/2024.

[Learning] How to keep a manageable size of user needs in my map?


Hi fellow cartographers !

Still trying to learn mapping and struggling at it :sweat_smile:

When I try to practice mapping on businesses I know, I quickly end up overwhelmed by a long list of users and a “never-ending” list of user needs (e.g. different profiles of clients, employees, partners, etc.). It makes my map difficult to read or to learn anything from.

I feel that sample maps from Simon book are duly simplified to convey learning. But I don’t know how to go from my unmanageable spaghetti map to the simple and enlightening one.

How to handle that ?

  • Is my scope too broad ? (I tend to define the scope as a full business and market review :thinking:)
  • Should I filter out irrelevant users/needs on the go ? (but how long to go :stuck_out_tongue: )
  • Should I start with overly simplified (and wrong) map and add new users/needs on the go ?
  • Should I enroll for Chris on-line course and stop asking crappy questions ? :innocent:

All help and thought appreciated :pray:


Hi @jalil.khayi! If you’re learning to map, it makes sense to start small and then start iterating. Your third suggestion is how I would approach it. Make a wrong map (they’re all wrong, really), but then improve and expand it according to the questions you are trying to answer.

This might be unclear how to do, so here’s the challenge I would pose:

  1. Pick one User of a business you know.
  2. Can you find a way to express all their various Needs as one idea? (Is there a word or phrase you can find or invent that summarizes them all? It can be wrong… just keep you moving.)
  3. Now, can you find a way to represent the rest of the value chain using fewer than 8 total components? (The trick is being able to summarize multiple related components as one, higher-level component. 8 is an arbitrary number, but it will provide an enabling constraint for your learning experience.)
  4. Categorize each component according to evolution (this might help) as you normally would.
  5. Iterate! What are you interested in learning through the map? Where are the problem areas? What needs more detail (or less)?

Let us know how it goes!


@jalil.khayi, maps are just a subjective representation of a reality, of how do you see things. @bemosior made me realise that it is essential to state the purpose of the map, of what you are trying to solve, as this shapes what you will put (or not put) on the map.

It might be that you are trying to solve a problem that touches a long list of actors and their needs, and you have no other way than be diligent, but it also might be that you can simplify things with the goal in mind. Maybe not every actor or need is playing a significant role.

As @bemosior said, iterating is important. You should keep refining a map until it will help you to make sense out of your situation and solve the problem.


Thanks for those actionnable tips. I will try this approach !


Few more tips -

As Ben and Chris have said, there is a question of reaching the right granularity, it is not easy. Many times your view is blurred by looking at the business as it is. You really need to step back into the user shoes. A good example of this would be the Government Digital Service. If you think about all that the user needs, it is a very long list indeed. You can however summarise this list as Accessing Information, Paying for Services, Finding contact numbers, etc. Then you may bring more granularity in your value chain or make a fractal break down of your maps.
Maps are a support for discussion, so think about the subject you want to explore and pitch the right granularity to the outcomes you are looking to achieve.

Another consideration, especially in the B 2 B domain is whether the anchor is the Buyer or the User of the service. Your map would look very different given such perspective. If you get stuck mapping with the Buyer, try and think about the user and vice versa, and see if this unlocks new potential :slight_smile:


If the map is too complicated you are looking at too many details. If you if need this sort of detail then you need another tool. Sounds like you are project mapping & not strategic mapping. Use Occam’s razor logic to pair down to the bare minimum. Many people love the phrase “its complicated”. I have found in most cases it is so to them because they can’t see the forest for the trees.