Considering a career in UX (user experience) design? Chances are you’ve encountered the term “user flow” before. User flows are part of the design process and can play a big role in ensuring the person using your platform has a good user experience while interacting with the product, application, or website in question.
Let’s dive into the topic of user flows so you can get a better understanding of how to integrate them into your UX design career. Here’s what we’ll get into:
- What is a user flow?
- When should I create user flows?
- How do you create a user flow?
What is a user flow?
In UX design, a designer works to create the most enjoyable and intuitive experience for the person interacting with their product, app, or website. A user flow represents the various paths a user could take to accomplish a goal when interacting with the product, app, or website. User flows are most often represented in flowcharts that track the possible series of steps a person could take to accomplish a task like creating an account or signing up for an email newsletter.
User flows acknowledge that different users will approach your product in different ways and that there are multiple paths to complete an action. With this in mind, designers typically create multiple flows to represent the various paths users can take to meet their goals when interacting with your site.
Having a visual representation of a user’s journey can be especially useful as it provides an opportunity for designers to work out any kinks, pain points, or areas of frustration for a user. In making sure the user’s journey is smooth, user flows are also helping companies up their conversion rate which is beneficial to their bottom line.
Finally, user flows provide value throughout an organization because they help UX Designers and Researchers communicate the design process and user experience to non-technical stakeholders in a simple way.
In addition to user flows, there are other types of flows in UX Design. These include task flows, wire flows, flowcharts, UI flows, screen flows, and sitemaps. All of these flows can be used in the process of designing your user experience and interface (UX/UI).
When should I create user flows?
The UX design process involves a variety of steps. Knowing these steps will help you put user flow diagrams into context. User flows are usually created after user and product research has been completed. Here’s how the process of creating a user flow might look.
User & Product Research
At the beginning of the UX process, a designer or researcher will conduct research to better understand the user they’ll be serving. They’ll ask questions like: What are my user’s wants and needs? What would make my product most attractive to my users? During this phase, you’ll also create user personas to get a more detailed breakdown of who your users are and how your product would fit into their everyday lives.
User flows & Information Architecture
After research has occurred, a UX Designer will focus on creating user flows. In this stage, a designer will also work on information architecture, which is the structuring and organizing of content. A UX Designer will create navigation, page hierarchies, and categorizations. It is essentially making sure content appears in an appropriate and effective order to avoid user frustration and confusion.
Next, designers will move on to wireframes. Wireframes are the bare-bones version of the user interface. Think of it as the website or app’s rough draft.
Prototypes are medium to high fidelity mockups of the product, app, or website. Prototypes can take many forms from developed, interactive ones to simple paper prototypes.
After product creation, a UX Designer will conduct user testing. There are a variety of usability tests a designer might use including phone interviews, guerilla testing, and lab usability testing. You can read more about these types of tests here.
How do you create a user flow?
Now for the fun part… creating user flows. User flows can be created by hand with pen and paper or digitally. You can use websites like Flowmapp, Wireflow, or Justinmind. We encourage you to test out a few different platforms for creating user flows and discover one that suits your specific needs as a designer.
Before creating a user flow, you’ll want to answer a few key questions:
- What is your user trying to accomplish?
- What information does the user need to accomplish the task?
- Are there any barriers the user faces when trying to complete the task at hand?
Your user flow will showcase the various paths a user could take to accomplish their goal. In order to showcase that, you’ll use shapes and arrows to indicate when information is presented as well as different actions taken and decisions made by the user. Each action step will be represented by a shape.
After you’ve created the user flow, you can seek feedback from stakeholders and review it to see if there are any missing pieces. Then, you can begin wireframing and working on the rest of the UX design process.
Want even more UX resources? Read these blogs for more guidance and information:
- From Graduate Student to UI Developer
- Complete Guide to Landing a UX Design Internship in 2021
- What is Digital Design and Why is it Important?
- What’s the Difference Between UX and UI Design?