This is the first of a series of articles comparing Narrandum with other popular services for creating customer journey maps. To keep this as objective as possible, we won't be getting into which one's better – we'll leave that judgment to you, the reader.
We at Narrandum like to think we're creating the best tool around for making customer journey maps and understanding your customers better. But we wouldn't be able to do that without inspiration from the other services out there. We have huge respect and admiration for all the work they've done, and so we want to acknowledge their efforts by taking a detailed look at them and comparing them to Narrandum.
In this first article, we're taking a look at one of the best-known services, UXPressia. It's created by a small team operating out of Russia, and is a pretty established product, having been around for a number of years now.
Only you can decide which is best for your needs. We just hope it will be us!
UXPressia's homepage is detailed and informative.
UXPressia's home page immediately shows you what to expect from the service. It gives the impression that this is a serious, professional business tool with all the features you need to create customer journey maps. UXPressia has been around for a while, so they have been able to pick up many blue-chip clients, and they proudly show some of these off on their homepage. This helps to give a strong impression that UXPressia can provide journey map templates which will work for many different types of business.
Narrandum aims to impress visually.
Narrandum's home page emphasises not only its functionality, but also its aesthetic qualities. The message here is "this tool can do everything you need, and it's fun too!". Where UXPressia emphasises its enterprise readiness, Narrandum makes a virtue of its quirkiness. It's a bit of a gamble, given that they're probably competing for the same customers, but as a new entrant to the market, it makes sense that Narrandum tries to stand out from the crowd.
Look and feel
Although the two tools attempt to solve more or less the same problem, they approach that problem in quite different ways. Two distinct design philosophies are in evidence here. Let's look at what that means in detail.
UXPressia favours a more conventional UI paradigm.
UXPressia has a very "businesslike" user interface which presents lots of information at once, but without ever looking overwhelming or cluttered. It is similar to many other services which use a dashboard-type layout, which makes it a familiar experience for anyone who has used cloud storage services such as Dropbox, or office tools like Google Docs. If you spend your days working with this kind of software, you'll feel at home here right away.
Narrandum is certainly more unconventional, but that doesn't mean it's not intuitive. "Stories" – Narrandum's term for customer journeys – are presented as large cards, which can contain an image summarising the premise of the story. This is not only visually impactful, but if you're working on a large number of stories, it makes it really easy to find the right one. This could get cumbersome if you have a really huge story collection, but for most users, this is unlikely to be an issue. Perhaps one day there'll be a "thumbnail mode" if customers demand it.
Narrandum goes for visual impact.
This shiny visual presentation doesn't come at the expense of detailed information. Narrandum tries to avoid clutter by hiding information which the user doesn't need right now, but many features of the user interface reveal much more detail when selected or hovered over. It's a good compromise approach and gets the balance right in most situations.
It's clear that a key goal with Narrandum was to help users to make customer journey maps which grab attention, and in this it certainly succeeds. It really does look beautifully vivid once you spend a little time adding some illustrative images to your customer journeys.
Ease of use
The familiar feel of UXPressia makes it intuitive from the start. A toolbar across the top contains frequently-used functions, such as sharing and exporting. The remainder of the screen is usually taken up with whatever content is being worked on.
This screen is where you'll spend most of your time in UXPressia.
Creating customer journeys or personas in UXPressia feels very deliberate. There's a lot of clicking "save" going on, which makes each input somehow feel permanent, as if changing it is being subtly discouraged. Narrandum saves continuously in the background as you work, so your stories feel much more like living documents, to be added to and modified over time. Certainly it's faster and more fluid to work with. In fact, it can be so snappy that some users wonder if it's really saving their work at all! You'll have to decide for yourself which paradigm you prefer.
While UXPressia looks and behaves like a typical desktop app, Narrandum is much more reminiscent of a touchscreen, focused on speed and smoothness. It feels light, playful and dynamic. It encourages and rewards interaction. But importantly, it still feels like a tool, not a toy. All of these widgets and draggable elements have a purpose – to make using Narrandum fast and fun. Laying out a story and filling in its details is a pleasure, not a chore – it doesn't feel like work at all!
Narrandum's stories look a little different.
Both services have many features in common, even if they refer to them by different names.
Being a much more mature product, UXPressia does have certain facilities which the younger contender doesn't offer. For example, its collaboration features are more extensive, allowing team members to write comments onto the assets they create, much like sticky notes on a PDF. Narrandum doesn't have anything like this yet – users can share stories and work on them together, either separately or simultaneously, but that's about it at the moment.
Another thing you won't find in Narrandum is UXPressia's impact map, which is a tool sometimes used in workshops to define relations between business goals, deliverables and their effect on customers. It's not yet at such a level of detail, although new features are being added regularly.
UXPressia is also the better choice if you think you'll need to download or print your maps. Not only does Narrandum have no such capability, there are no plans to offer them – it is conceived as an entirely digital tool for creating living artifacts which grow and develop over time, and that's why it places such emphasis on visual appearance. The app itself is the best way to make client presentations of journey maps and customer personas, and if stakeholders have feedback, it can be included right there and then. No need to scuttle back to the office with a poster covered in scrawled notes.
The journey map
Both services have a remarkably similar view of the world. A customer journey, or "story" in Narrandum's parlance, consists of a series of stages (or "scenes"). Each of these scenes can be described in detail through many different categories of information, such as touch points, events, pain points and key moments. UXPressia and Narrandum' representation of customer journeys differ in the details, but share a lot in common.
Narrandum's 'story table' will look familiar to anybody who's seen a service blueprint.
Despite the similarities, two distinct design philosophies are in evidence. UXpressia presents the whole customer journey map and all the information it contains at once, and allows the user to edit it directly , element by element. While it is possible in Narrandum to see the whole journey as a service blueprint, it's just for presentation purposes, at least at the moment. To add or edit information, you need to open an individual scene. Again, Narrandum attempts to find a balance between breadth and depth, to accommodate a high degree of detail without information overload. Fortunately, it's very fast and smooth, and moving around is a breeze.
Narrandum also allows for a more flexible representation of customer journeys than UXPressia in some ways. For example, UXPressia's "Process and channels" allows you to specify how an interaction takes place, such as in person, over the phone, or via chat, but you can choose only one channel per customer journey stage. Narrandum, on the other hand, lets you specify as many touch points as you like. And if you find that the 40 or so built-in touchpoints aren't right for your particular case, you can add your own.
It's a similar pattern with another crucial aspect of the customer journey map: personas. In the free version of UXPressia, a journey is about just one person. If you want to create something more complex, with interactions between multiple stakeholders, you'll need to pay for a subscription. With Narrandum, not only can a journey feature multiple characters, but you can also decide which characters appear in which scenes. So while your primary persona might be present throughout the story, their colleague is only around when they're in the office, their partner will be present in scenes set at home, and their best friend might only turn up once to give them advice. This fine-grained control allows for some really sophisticated modelling of real-world circumstances.
Speaking of personas, let's take a more detailed look at how the two services handle them.
After the journey itself, the most crucial component of any customer journey mapping tool is personas. Both tools feature them prominently, and there are unique features in each which might make them more interesting to you.
The persona creator screen in UXPressia.
Just as with the customer journey map, UXPressia's personas feel very much like a digital version of a paper-based template. There are some interactive features, such as the ability to assign skills to a persona, but overall the feeling is that this is a place to gather and present static information. The good news is that it's nicely laid out and helps you to make sure you capture all the important details about your customer personas. One particularly neat trick which it has up its sleeve is its portrait generator. Using the [UIFaces](https://uifaces.co/) service, it's possible to put a face to your persona, with a choice of thousands of images of people of all ages and backgrounds. It will also randomly generate typical names for people from many different nations.
Narrandum turns up the cute factor.
Narrandum wants you to really bond with your personas, so that you care about what happens to them, and create customer experiences that make them happy. Its persona generator is a little more sophisticated and in-depth, but also more playful. It feels much more like something you would find in a game than in business software, and seems to draw inspiration from things like The Sims and perhaps even Rimworld. So instead of using generic stock photo images for characters, they're cute little animated 3D models. As well as being able to give your character skills, you can also assign personality traits to them, which then affect how the characters react to situations which occur in the customer journey. This isn't just about making personas more endearing – these 3D character models also play an important role in Narrandum's party piece, the Stage.
All the world's a stage.
This is where it all comes together. After you've defined the customer journey, created personas, defined touchpoints, user goals and so on, Narrandum brings them to life in a unique way. Those 3D models live in a little town! If you've chosen a location when mapping our the stages of your customer journey, that's where your characters will be. Click on a scene and a camera swoops across town to the location you chose. And depending on what's happening in the scene, you may see your characters react with anger, delight or indifference.
It's fair to say this facility is still in the early stages of development - there aren't yet any interiors, for instance, so your characters are always hanging around outside buildings. But with time this should develop into something truly unique.
Help and support
UXPressia tries not to get in your way while you're using it. There are a lot of empty boxes staring back at you from the screen, and it's really up to you how you use them. There's little to distinguish one row from another, too - you could put goals in the "process" boxes, and vice versa, and it wouldn't make any difference. Again, it's hard to escape the feeling that this is a paper-based process which has been transferred into the digital domain.
Narrandum is definitely more opinionated about how you should do things. As you use it you get the feeling that you can do things any way you like, but you should do them in a certain way to get the best results. Guidance and suggestions turn up absolutely everywhere, from the moment you first sign in. Virtually every piece of information you can enter has a help bubble providing tips on what to think about. Creating an effective customer journey map can be a daunting and confusing exercise, but Narrandum does its best to make it straightforward.
Both services follow the "freemium" model, offering a useful free version for you to try out, while keeping some more interesting functionalities behind a paywall. The most obvious limitation is the number of journey maps you are allowed to create – two in Narrandum, just one in UXPressia. Paying customers of Narrandum also get a lot more character models to choose from, whereas the free version just has 20 male and 20 female characters to choose from.
Perhaps most importantly, if you want to collaborate with other team members to make your customer journeys, both services ask you to pay. But for many users the free service will be more than enough to decide if it's what they're looking for.
We hope this guide has helped you to understand the features of UXPressia and Narrandum. There are many similarities between the two, but also many differences. Both services offer great free plans, so we suggest you sign up for both, try them out, and see which one you prefer. Happy mapping!