User Day

The User Day exercise is a visual tool that promotes a user-centered approach to product and service innovation.

Use this tool when:

  • you want to empathise with your ideal user
  • uncover potential pain points & challenges to solve your product/idea


Time± 45 minutes
Difficulty2 / 5
People2 - 8
Authorerik van der pluijm
License CC BY SA 4.0

What is it and when should I use it?

In any innovation process, uncertainty is a big thing. Most of what you are doing is uThe User Day exercise is an innovative tool that promotes a user-centered approach to product and service innovation. Looking to develop solutions that are tailored to your target users? Want to gain a deeper awareness of their daily experiences, needs, and pain points?

By immersing themselves in an imaginary user's daily routine and pinpointing the obstacles users encounter, teams can gain a fresh perspective on the space their product or service is operating in. Once the challenges are identified, teams can brainstorm on existing or new products/services/ideas that could help address and solve those.

This exercise is particularly useful during the innovation process when the product team is seeking to develop empathy for their users and center their product ideas around their needs. Really, it's a powerful reminder to always keep the user in mind, regardless of the stage of the project.

Customer Journey vs User Day

The most common type of customer journey is the current-state journey. Teams use this approach to map out a user’s experience in relation to their product/service or when exposed to a brand’s marketing approach.

In comparison, the User Day exercise takes everything a step back. Rather than focusing on specific product moments, the exercise encourages teams to zoom out and gain a comprehensive understanding of the user's experience, even beyond direct product interactions.

A real user’s day

Of course, this exercise does not replace speaking to actual users. If you want to check your own assumptions about your users’ experiences (which you should), we suggest conducting a real diary study.

A diary study is a research method that provides an intimate window into a user's life, capturing their behaviors, activities, and experiences over a certain period. Participants are prompted to record their experiences in their own words, giving design teams valuable insights into their daily routines, habits, and emotions.

Tool Overview

  1. Daily Activities Write out the experiences and tasks your user goes through. Then identify pain points & possible solutions (step 2 & 3)

  2. Timestamp Include rough times for each activity.

  3. Opportunities Map out opportunities you find in the daily activities.

  4. Assumptions List assumptions you made or found while mapping.


1 Sketch out a typical day

Use the area next to the timeline to map out a typical day for your persona, including rough times for each activity. You can use post-its or write directly on the paper.

The best approach here is to work quickly and creatively, including as many events of the day as possible. Give yourself about 5-10 minutes.

Questions to help you map your user’s day

  • Who is your user persona? Make sure you have a clear understanding of their typical behaviors, habits, or preferences
  • What are their typical working hours or daily schedule?
  • Who do they interact with during their day, and in what context?
  • What are their emotions and thoughts during each activity? Consider how they feel and what they think at each stage of their day
  • What are their needs and wants? Think about what your persona needs and wants to accomplish during their day
  • Are there any moments of stress or uncertainty in the user's day, and why?
  • Are there any moments of joy or pleasure in the user's day, and why?

2 Identify Pain Points

After you’ve created your baseline day, you should dive deeper into the most significant challenges or pain points that the persona faces during the day. These could be tasks that take up too much time, events that cause frustration, or situations where the user may struggle to complete a task.

Ideally, grab a different color of sticky notes. Within a 5-10 minute timeframe, try to brainstorm and jot down as many pain points as possible, and place them next to the corresponding part of the day. Then select the most significant pain points to focus on during the next step.

Tip! Encourage participants to think beyond obvious pain points. Sometimes small frustrations or inconveniences can add up and cause significant annoyance or wasted time. Remember, small things add up!

Example If the persona is a busy parent, obvious pain points might be the morning rush or dealing with tantrums. However, smaller frustrations such as constantly searching for lost items or difficulty coordinating schedules with their partner may also be significant challenges that could be addressed with a product or service solution.

3 Find opportunities

Let’s think of solutions, not problems! Explore how you can make your persona's life easier by reducing pain, increasing efficiency, or boosting happiness.

The goal of this exercise is to generate new product or service ideas that are tailored to the needs of the user. The ideas generated should be innovative and always refer to the pain points identified earlier.

4 Validate

It's likely that some of the assumptions made on the canvas are more valid than others. However, it's crucial to verify them before building product ideas on top of them. Here are three suggestions, ranging from low to high effort, for what to do next:

  •  Show your User Day to actual or potential customers and see if they recognize themselves. This can help validate the accuracy of your persona and identify any potential gaps or inaccuracies.
  •  In your next user interviews, ask questions about their daily habits, typical behaviors, or preferences. This can help you gain a deeper understanding of your user and their needs, as well as identify any pain points or challenges they may be experiencing.
  •  Conduct a full-on diary study. As mentioned earlier, a diary study is an excellent tool to gain a better understanding of your user and your product in their life, while minimizing your own biases or preconceptions.