Experience Design: Walk-a-mile immersion

We unearth the best approaches to and uses of walk-a-mile immersion.

An often underutilised method in experience design is ‘walk-a-mile immersion’: literally putting yourself in the shoes and mind-set of your customers and experiencing things from their perspective, as an insider.

Existing in a number of different guises – ‘empathy tools’, ‘simulation’, ‘mystery shopping’ or ‘cognitive walkthrough’ – this tool is really just about emulating and suffering the true journey that a customer goes through.

When ‘walk-a-mile-immersion’ is best

Use this approach when you want to:

Why this can hold serious benefits

Having recently conducted this type of research for a number of clients at Foolproof I’ve been reminded of the real power and insight that first-hand experience can have.

There is nothing quite like experiencing something personally to help to expose the cracks and inconsistencies in a user journey, identify potential drop off points, frustrations, confusions and time or effort-intensive processes. It also helps to understand how your customers will perceive and respond to your customer experience on a rational and emotional level.

For example, we recently reviewed an end-end product application and activation process. By immersing ourselves in the process from a user’s perspective we uncovered a number of inconsistencies in the messaging, inappropriate communications, an overwhelming volume of communications (7 letters and 20 different documents), time consuming forms, inadequate or buried information plus a number of other break points at each service touch-point. This all contributed to a frustrating and disjointed experience which would have been difficult to uncover if we hadn’t put ourselves into the shoes of the consumer.

When to use it

Compared to usability testing, this approach works particularly well as a tool to evaluate experiences which are:

The process of ‘walk-a-mile immersion’

You can approach this task using a range of techniques depending on the objective, including:

Points to remember

To conduct this approach effectively:


Depending on the product or service and objectives of the project, walk-a-mile immersion can lead onto a range of outputs: from customer experience journeys to emotional or pain point maps, to customer stories in storyboard or video format.

If the objective is to engage stakeholders, we find storytelling to be the most powerful approach, constructing a narrative around the current customer experience to engender empathy and understanding.

An informed understanding of the current state of play is a logical starting point for many UX strategy programmes, helping to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current end-to-end reality and flowing logically into future customer experience visioning activities.

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