How to Create a User Flow
No matter how good your start-up is, it won’t matter unless your website or application offers a seamless, hassle-free user experience. Designing a good UX can be very challenging, this is where User flow comes into the picture. User flow assists designers in comprehending and anticipating consumers’ thought processes in a visualized manner which enables them to develop products that facilitate the same.
In this article, we will together learn what User flow is all about and how you can design one for your product.
What is User Flow?
As the name suggests, user flow visually depicts the path or steps a user takes to navigate a website or an app to complete a specific set of actions or goals which can range from buying a product or signing up. For example, when a user visits the homepage of a website and navigates their way to the checkout page, there are several steps that the user takes in between.
The user flow helps in designing a path that is smooth and does not obstruct the consumer from performing a task. In simple words, it makes sure that consumers can get to that final stage of purchasing a product or signing up without becoming agitated and departing.
The user flow will differ for different kinds of websites, the user flow for an e-commerce site would be for example:
- The user begins by landing on the homepage.
- The visitor then navigates to a category page (Kids section) from the homepage.
- The user selects a product from the category page.
- The user adds the item to the cart from the product page.
- The user checks out from the cart.
- The user completes the transaction from the checkout screen.
- The user gets confirmation about their checkout.
This example represents an ideal path that we would want the user to take. This would be represented in the form of a flow chart diagram where multiple nodes would represent the different paths a user might follow.
The main purpose of the user flow
User flow analysis is used to determine the primary user movements across your application or website, as well as locations where the navigational flow might be enhanced. It helps in monitoring the interactions a user might take and how they may engage with a particular page of your website to accomplish a specific goal.
It also acts as a bridge between the designers and developers, it helps the designers communicate what they want to the developers. The user flow diagram is made up of several stages which are named appropriately and a description is provided about what occurs at that stage.
Importance of user flow
Designing a good UX can be extremely difficult, especially when the website is complex. This is when user flow diagrams arrive at the scene to save the day, we’ll understand how their importance in website development:
- Simple to understand: The complex user interactions that happen while a user is taking a path are simplified by a visual representation of the user flow. Diagrams break down complex problems into easily digestible chunks which help teams absorb information efficiently.
- Acts as a bridge between designers and developers: User flows help the designers to communicate to the developers exactly what they want. The diagrams can help both the designers and developers to find the gaps that exist and enhance the user experience accordingly.
- User-centric design: User flows ensure that users are the main focus of the design and it ensures that the users can accomplish the tasks that they intend to perform.
- Saves time and money: The user flow diagrams help you make important decisions at the very beginning of the design phase, this way you don’t waste precious time and the whole process becomes hassle-free.
Who creates the user flow
User flows are usually created by UX designers because they are the ones that design the user interface for a website or an application, although this is done in tandem with the developers. It is strongly advised that designers work with the developers to establish the user flow. This is one technique to ensure that everyone on the team understands the general flow with minimal documentation.
Creating a user flow
While user flows can help design a good UX if you have to map a complex project which involves multiple cases, user decisions, and edge cases it can become hectic. Let’s understand how an excellent user flow is designed.
User Flow: What is it used for
The user flow is a visualization in the form of a diagram that exhibits the path a user takes to achieve a goal. It has several uses such as:
- Development of an Intuitive design: The design of the product is an essential phase in the development of the product. It must meet the needs of the market, the industry, and the key demographic. The right design raises the likelihood of prospective customers who will buy or register for the product. It’s a lot simpler with user flows since they illustrate the procedure of user engagement with the product and allow you to assess the design’s efficacy before release.
- Helps in improving existing products: User flows can also help you make existing products better by finding out the flaws or gaps that have arisen in a website. Any obstructions faced by users can be removed after a thorough analysis.
- Can be presented to clients: Since user flows to give a general idea of what the interface would look like when completed, it can be used to give your clients a presentation about your project. You can also get feedback from them and make changes accordingly this is better than changing the entire interface after it has been completed.
Questions for creating a user flow
Starting with knowledge of user demands allows the product designers to develop a user flow and interface that is tailored to those requirements.
The following points must be considered for every user flow:
- What task is the user attempting to do?
- What is crucial to the consumer and what will encourage them to go all the way?
- What further details would the user require to complete the task?
- What are the user’s concerns or roadblocks to completing the task?
- How would your product help the user?
After you ask yourself these questions you’ll get more clarity about what it is that you are trying to achieve with your UI and UX. This will help you gather the crucial information that you need before you start creating the user flow for your product.
What information needs to be prepared before creating a user flow
Several things need to be considered before making a user flow, you will have to gather information relevant to your product such as:
- What kind of problem does your product intend to solve and how does it solve that problem.
- What is your target audience: Study your target audience as this is a major factor that affects your user flow design. You can take user stories into use and create 3 to 4 user personas based on which you will design your user flow.
- Determine which kinds of devices will your product be accessible on, devices are available in various shapes and sizes such as a smartphone, tablets, laptops, desktops, or even a smartwatch. If your product is available on various devices, you may have to adapt accordingly.
In conclusion, conduct market research about the industry that you are trying to enter, the expectations of your customers, what kind of customers you will be dealing with. Not just that, also research your competition and see what they are doing and understand their approach. This will help you tremendously as it will help you understand your customers’ thought processes better.
Stages of creating a user flow
Stage 1: Understand your goals and find out what your users desire: You need to analyze your users and find out what is the ultimate goal of your users and what kind of products are they interested in. Also, figure out what is the goal of your organization because the path will have to be designed keeping that in mind.
Stage 2: Find out how your users are accessing your product: Your users may enter your site from various funnels such as:
- Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat
- Hyperlinks on another website
- From a Google search
- Email marketing
- Word of mouth may also drive traffic
- Sharing your site via text message platforms
How your users visit your site matters a lot, this will not be as prominent if you have an application since users will have to install it on their devices. Where your user is coming from will decide how they are going to navigate your website.
For example, Targeted marketing for a specific product may motivate a customer to directly buy the marketed product from your site without doing anything else. The user flow for this type of consumer will be fairly simple, whereas if a customer arrives at your site from a generic sales ad, they may have multiple complex interactions with your site and then maybe buy a product.
You will have to design the outline of your user flow based on the data collected by you. We’ll now take a look at how the outline needs to be created.
Stage 3: Create an outline i.e. map it out
You need to keep in mind what the main objective of your user is and that there are minimal obstructions in the path to their goal. Multiple steps may be involved after a user visits a site such as signing up or logging in depending on the type of product.
An e-commerce site for example does not necessitate signing up, the user can simply visit the site and search for a product and then buy it by checking out directly. This would be the ideal path an e-commerce site would want to have. Make sure that the outline is practical not too complex. Keep it as simple as possible when they just start, the complexity should not drive them away.
You can create a basic outline of the steps that the users may take by writing it down, you can then convert it into a diagram later. We’ll now take a look into how a user flow diagram is created.
How to create a user flow diagram:
A user flow diagram is a visualized representation of user flow, the diagram makes it easy to map out the paths a user takes when they perform a specific task. You may begin by sketching out a rough diagram on a piece of paper and then make a proper diagram using digital tools.
A user flow diagram is made up of shapes and lines, although you cannot just randomly put any shape in the diagram. Typically, the diagram consists of 4 shapes:
Each of these shapes has a specific purpose which we will understand in brief. The diagram is divided into 3 main parts, the entry, steps in between, and the final step.
Circle/Oval: This shape is used at the start or endpoints and usually represents an action and they are denoted with a verb.
Rectangles: You must have noticed that the most used shape in user flow diagrams are rectangles and that’s because they denote web pages.
Diamonds: Whenever you visit a website, you have certain choices to make, this is where the diamond is used. Every time you make a choice/decision, a diamond is used to denote the same. For example, adding a product to the cart would be denoted by a diamond.
Parallelogram: Whenever you need the user to put in information, you need their input, or whenever there’s an output, you use the parallelogram to represent that.
All these shapes are connected with the help of lines of arrows which represent the flow of the whole diagram. Even though you may have completed the user diagram, it is advisable to refine it as much as you can to make your users’ path as smooth as possible.
How to improve user flow diagram:
- Design a unique user flow for every aspect of your product
Any product or website would have multiple functionalities along with several aspects that cannot be covered in a single user flow diagram. It would be super complex if a single user flow diagram covered multiple functionalities. Design one user flow for one specific goal or objective such as buying a Men’s shirt on a clothing website.
- Design the diagram based on one entry point
Users may visit your website from various sources such as social media or a google search. In this case, the visitor from the social media platform would be presented with different data than the visitor who clicked on a google search result. Both the visitors would have different objectives in mind.
The visitor from the social media page may have landed on a web page that is for products on sale after clicking on an ad for the same. Keeping this in mind, make sure that your diagrams are unique based on the entry points.
User flow chart types
UX flows may be used for any sort of UI or website design, however, based on the project, some forms of flow diagrams are more helpful than others. We’ll go through a couple of the many user flow alternatives and when they should be used.
- Task Flows
Task flows as the name suggests are used to track a user’s path while they perform a specific task. This type of chart presumes that all the users will use one path to perform an action and is linear. There is no diversification and this type of chart is good for a very specific goal.
- Wire flows
A wireframe is a figure or series of schematics that depicts the framework of a site or an app’s user (UI) and essential features using basic lines and shapes. Wireframes can express the visual appearance of individual pages, but they can’t explain the movement of significantly dynamic interfaces from one page to another.
Wireflows give page relevance to UX flows because what consumers view on each screen has a significant influence on their overall app or website experience. This type of flow chart is great for smartphone applications as there are no abstract shapes involved, instead, it makes use of the actual user interface design.
- User Flows
User flows focus on the user rather than the task that has to be accomplished, as different users may take different paths to accomplish the same goal. It anticipates the users’ interactions with the website or application. Entry points are also taken into consideration when a user flow diagram is made.
Tips for creating a user flow
Now that you have learned what a user flow is and how you can make one, we will take a look at some tips that will help you do it more efficiently:
- Give a descriptive name to your user flow: Name your user flows descriptively so that anyone accessing the document from your team knows what it’s all about. Make sure that you do not make the extremely complex user flows that address several tasks at the same time.
- One user flow for one goal: Remember that the main aim of user flows is to simplify the paths that users take to accomplish a goal. Hence, keeping this in mind make sure that you make only one user flow for one type of goal. Ensure that your users are focused on completing one goal at a time, design the user flows following this principle.
- Use Crystal-Clear labels: When reading your user flows, anyone from your team must be able to understand the information that you are trying to convey. There must be no ambiguity when it comes to labels, for example, if you are trying to label an action with a diamond label it as “checking out”.
Whereas, if you are trying to label a rectangle that represents a web page, label it as “check out screen”. This way there will be no ambiguity among your team members who are trying to understand your user flow diagram.
- Have a master key: Not everyone on your team may be familiar with the shapes and their functions in a user flow diagram, to make sure that they are not lost while deciphering the diagram, make a master key at the end for them to refer to. Mention what is the purpose of each shape.
- Decide on an entry point: As mentioned earlier, decide on a single entry point for a user flow diagram, as visitors from different sources will visit your website with different goals in mind and their actions will vary accordingly. So keeping in mind the entry point, you will be able to develop a good user flow.
User flow tools
When making a user flow diagram, you have the option of drawing it with your hands on a piece of paper, but that is very time-consuming and not everyone on your team will be able to understand it if your drawing skills are not good enough.
There are innumerable tools available on the internet that are made specifically to design user flows, you can use them to make great user flow diagrams. We have picked out the best ones for you here:
- Justinmind: This is a fairly advanced tool that enables the users to test out their user flows in real-time, this tool is also interactive. It has a nice user interface that is intuitive and easy to use. The learning curve for this software is not very big, almost anyone can learn to use it.
They also have a version that can be downloaded on a desktop so that you don’t have to rely on the internet. Both free and paid versions ($19 a month) are available.
- Lucidchart: This tool is unique as it offers the users readymade templates which can be modified as needed. This saves a lot of time and the tool also offers the ability for several people to comment or chat along with each other.
- Mockflow: This tool is one of the more flexible tools which enables users to add third-party applications and allows the team to collaborate on a project in real-time. This though comes at a handsome price as the tool costs around $14-160 per month.
- Overflow: This is a new player in the market which brings a modern take on user flow designing. This tool enables you to design clean diagrams that are playable. The tool can also work with 3rd party tools such as Adobe Xd and Photoshop. The subscription starts from $12 and it also gives you the option of custom pricing.
- Wireflow: An open-source tool, Wireflow gives you almost all the features that paid tools offer, in fact, it also lets your teams collaborate in real-time. This is a new concept that is being tested.
In every online or smartphone interface, user flow is indeed an integral aspect of the consumer experience. If you ignore it, you’ll have unhappy consumers who will leave your website and may never come back. You need to make sure that the users have a hassle-free experience and that it is easy for the user to accomplish any task.
A good user flow is also important for an organization as it would want that the users perform the tasks that are beneficial to the organization. After reading this article you will be able to create a user flow for your product, but if you face any kind of issue, don’t hesitate to write to us via the feedback form, our experts would love to help you out.
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