Create an Ecosystem Map for your Business

What Is The Value Of An Ecosystem Map?

As User Experience (UX) Designers we have a myriad of tools in our toolbox to help visualise and understand systems we are designing for. The one that provides the most value is the Ecosystem Map. It helps us to see the bigger picture, providing a great visual overview of the project’s “ecosystem”. For our clients, it helps them think about their role within the landscape of the work they do and the ultimate impact they are trying to have. So what is an Ecosystem Map and how can your business get value from it?

An ecosystem map with a heart as the centre. The words linked out from this are "Business Goals", "Gains", "Competitors", "Pains", "Users" and "Product Offering".

Why Use Data Visualisation?

Trying to visualise complex data has been a challenge for a long time. It presents information in an abstract way but it also helps people better understand the important data in a visual context. We all know common examples of data visualisations such as line graphs, bar charts, pie charts and even maps. But as designers we have so many more ways of doing this. At its core an Ecosystem Map is another example of visualising data.

What Is An Ecosystem Map?

So how does an Ecosystem Map apply to UX Design and business? When we think of ecosystems we think of areas of wildlife where birds, animals, trees and plants live and work in harmony. In some respects, the human body is similar to an ecosystem too. We have different parts of our body such as nerves, blood vessels, bones, organs etc. Each perform their own tasks but also work together in harmony for the greater good. If the heart did not work with the veins and arteries, as well as the lungs and other organs, the human “ecosystem” would fail.

The same concept can be applied to a business or an aspect of the business. These are made up of different items and concepts that combine to represent the whole. Usually an Ecosystem Map focuses on (but not limited to) the following areas:

  • What is the business?
  • Who are the users?
  • What is the primary action?

An Ecosystem Map is the best way to understand and present the relationships of our client in their business environment. It shows all the high-level exchanges of value between the client and the groups with which they interact. It can depict the services or technology being used in this system and how everything works together. A good Ecosystem Map should give you a good basis to create context scenarios and User personas, the two most important UX artefacts.

An example of a good Ecosystem map. The first section showing Actors, subcategorised into Users and buyers then showing the problems. The Next Section is Business this sections shows, Buyer goals, market segment, competitors and the competitors strengths and Weaknesses. The last section is Product. This shows product definition including product benefits, products goals and a wow factor feature.

What can benefit from an Ecosystem Map?

While you are working on a software project, you are constantly learning and your ecosystem map is evolving with your new knowledge. This newly collected information should be used to upgrade your map and these updates need to be shared with your client. All involved benefit from this – you, your team and your client. It helps you to understand the situation and the problems that arise. It can also lead to insights, connections and breakthroughs in solving the Design problem.

Creating an Ecosystem Map is a great way to begin a project, and it will continue to provide value through to the end. Ecosystem Maps are a tool we use for projects in Graphic Mint. Contact us today to see how we can help to map out your ecosystem.

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