Each product you create exists, in the first place, to satisfy some client’s needs or solve their problems. But, even if your app has all the needed functionality to fulfill this task, in case the application has a long and exhausting sign-up process, confusing navigation, or it provides a bad user experience in some other way, your clients will probably leave the app and opt for your competitor’s offer.
As a design agency, we know from our experience that it is essential to optimize the path a user takes when interacting with your product. And an effective way to do it is to create a well-thought-out UX flow.
For example, simplifying the user flow helped us to eliminate the problem with visitors that didn’t convert to users when we were working on Handprinter, a unique startup with a goal to heal the planet.
This article aims to explain what user flows are and what is their place and role in the product design process. To give you a clear understanding of the topic we divided this post into the following sections:
- What is user flow in UX?
- Place of user flow in a product design process
- Types and examples of UX flows
- What do I need to create a UX flow?
OK, no more talks, let's get down to business.
What is user flow in UX? (or “Build your product with your users in mind”)
Start creating an information architecture for your future product right away without building any strategy is not the best idea. For your customers to have a positive impression of the product, designers should focus on customers’ needs, which means they should develop an understanding of how to create the best algorithm for performing tasks for a particular user.
The easier it is for the client to move along their path when completing a task, the more pleasant it is for them to interact with your website or application. And that means you are more likely to provide a great user experience.
UX flow is a diagram that shows the path a user goes through when using your product from the start point to the final interaction.
You can have many User Flows as a part of a single project, as there are a lot of different objectives for a person that uses your service/app. Some can be rather complex (become a member of your product), while others can be directed at one specific task (watch a video).
Let’s take a look at the example of a UX flow to better understand the above definition.
This UX design flow represents the path the user has to take when they start using the app. We can see the entry point “View app start page” and all possible steps users will have to take to reach their final destination “View dashboard”.
This visual representation of the sign-up process allows designers to assess the product’s ease of use and, if needed, optimize the user experience.
The use of user flows for UX design
As you may have already understood from the content above, the main advantage of user flow diagrams for UX design is the ability to improve the user experience (which in its turn leads to the increase of the probability of a user purchasing or signing up for the product).
But it is not the only benefit we can mention here:
It is an easy and fast way to visualize the process
With the help of user flows you may quickly illustrate all the tasks without the need for any special UX user flow tools (you can build the diagram in any design application that you use like Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD).
This kind of design deliverable is clear for everyone (stakeholders, clients, team members) as it looks like blocks and arrows. Moreover, you can build user flows even before you design the user interface of the product to make the UI more thoughtful and logical.
Allows to better learn your audience
The basis of the whole interaction of the user with the product is to complete a certain task (find some info, book a room, and so on). As we create the user experience process flow from the user’s standpoint, it lets you focus on user tasks taking into account their true goals and experience. User flows in UX design help us to keep in mind that we solve real problems of real people.
Helps to eliminate malfunctions
Most challenges that occur when developing a website/app are connected with users that can’t successfully reach their goal. A well-thought-out UX flow helps to identify and get rid of the bottlenecks, pain points, and steps that may confuse clients and cause problems on their way to completing the task.
One more thing we want to mention here is that flow diagrams help to identify problem areas in the existing design as well. Building UX flow for products that are already on the market allows us to see what works well, and what needs improvement. This way you can think of alternative options users may take to accomplish their task faster and easier.
It is difficult to communicate your ideas in a way that is understandable for everyone. UX flows allow you to present the scope of work, challenges, tasks, and goals your team members will have to deal with when creating a design solution.
Place of user flow in a product design process
User flows are useful for everything from interface design to information architecture and usability testing. In the early stages of the UX process, it can help you to formulate and visualize the ideas before you get into this step of creating high-fidelity mockups, wireframes, and prototypes.
At Eleken we build user flows as a part of our UX strategy stage of the UI/UX design process. It helps us to align the product vision with user needs. So, when talking about the place of user flow in a design process, we create them after we’ve done all the needed research about the market, competitors, and target audience. When you have information about your users, UX flow helps to determine the number and order of screens that the product should contain.
Finally, remember that product design is not a linear process, so you can go back to user flows at any point, revise and improve them to provide the best possible user experience for the clients.
Types of UX flows
There are a bunch of different types of UX flows. Some of them are simple and look like labels, some are based on wireframes with text. Let’s dive into more details with user flow UX examples.
A flowchart is a diagram that represents the order of steps the user takes to perform a process when interacting with the product. They may represent the whole experience or just a piece of it.
Flowcharts are easy to build as there are certain rules of how to depict them.
Task flow represents the user’s actions when they complete a specific task. Usually, task flows illustrate only one path without multiple ways.
Task flows are used in UX design when you think that all clients will take the same sequence of steps.
The distinctive feature of a task flow is that it is often small and linear. They do not illustrate the difficulties that users may face (for example, in the image above it doesn’t show what will happen if there is no result found).
To give the definition of a Wire flow, we should understand what the wireframe is. A wireframe is a page layout that illustrates the design elements on each page and the way they are connected with each other.
In its turn, a Wire flow is a combination of a wireframe and user flow. Instead of blocks with information, we see the visualization of screens customers interact with on their way to completing the goal.
Wire flows are especially useful for developing mobile apps (because of the small screen size).
Screen flows feature high fidelity screens that are actually page layouts of the finished application. They are highly detailed and represent the real size and look of a future product.
It allows both clients and team members to feel the size and complexity of a website/app.
The sitemap shows the hierarchy of the website’s structure. Sitemaps help designers to organize and prioritize the content and functionality of the product.
What do I need to create a UX flow?
Here are the main steps that outline the process of creating UX flows.
- Conduct customer research. Do research to learn who your target audience is, what goals they have and what steps they need to go through to achieve their goal. This information will help to make your UX process flow smooth and logical.
- Create a title for your user flow. The title should explain the user’s objective (for example, “creating an account”, “resetting the password”).
- Reduce the number of steps to the fewest possible. The simpler the process, the better is the user experience. If the user path is too long, try to break it down into several smaller tasks.
- Design each step. Depending on the type of UX flow you choose it can be a block with few words or a wireframe.
- Add description. To better understand what the user is supposed to do at each step, you may add short explanations below each block.
- Evaluate and refine. Check if your user flow satisfies customers’ needs and helps them to fulfill the task in the shortest way possible. Think if there are any points where the user may have doubts or be confused about how to complete the task. Remember, there is no limit to making improvements.
Do I really need a UX flow?
If after reading the whole article you still hesitate if you need a UX flow here are some key takeaways about the benefits of this design deliverable:
- It is an easy way to present the whole process of interaction with the app.
- User experience flows help to shape the strategy and create an intuitive information architecture.
- With the help of flows, you won’t forget to create some mockups.
- UX flows increase the probability customers will buy/subscribe to your product.
If you need some help in creating an intuitive interface and cohesive user experience drop us a line, we have dedicated product designers with experience in creating a customer-centered design that are ready to lend a helping hand.