DIY furniture divides customers into two groups: those who can build and those who can't. Guess which category I fall under?
For me, user flow is why I struggle with DIY furniture. The directions are rarely clear as most involve complex diagrams and confusing instructions. Not only that, the product's holes sometimes don't line up with the screws, or it's missing a piece altogether, leaving me bewildered and frustrated.
This is a common example of a user experience that could be improved with better user flow. Not sure what a user flow is? Let's review it and look into a few tips you can use to create a smooth user flow at your business.
What Is a User Flow?
User flows are diagrams that highlight the path a user should take to complete a task. This internal document acts as a step-by-step guide that helps customers achieve their goals on time. Businesses use this diagram to ensure customer success and prevent churn early in the customer journey.
Let's consider our DIY furniture example. These companies could improve their user flow by providing customers with step-by-step video instructions. These videos could be posted on a knowledge base and act as a 24/7 resource for confused or frustrated customers. And, they could include FAQ pages that direct people to support teams when products are missing pieces.
User flow is a form of proactive customer service. It recognizes when customers may struggle with your product or service and provides a solution before they encounter the roadblock.
Typically, businesses improve user flows with diagrams. These resources outline user tasks and visualize how customers will interact with products and services.
Let's review these diagrams in the next section.
User Flow Diagram
User flow diagrams outline the customer journey and highlight opportunities to improve user experience. These diagrams break down one or a series of tasks that the customer will perform with the product or service, identifying timely opportunities for businesses to interact with the user or provide customer self-service.
User flow diagrams are great because they help you discover ways that customers are using your product that you never considered. And, it helps you catch broken features or missing components before the product is released.
When designing your user flow, implement the following tips for a smooth design and clear mission.
8 Tips for Creating Smooth User Flows
1. Consider the questions that your diagram will answer.
When building a user flow, you should start by putting yourself in the customer's shoes. Think about the problems a new user would face and how they would overcome them. Different customers solve problems in different ways, so be sure to account for multiple pathways for success.
If you're having trouble relating to customer experience, try answering some general questions about your user flow. Some questions you can ask are:
- What's the user trying to accomplish with this product?
- Why do they need to accomplish them? What's motivating them to do so?
- How can the product help them accomplish this goal?
- What might hold the user back from using this product?
2. Create user personas.
A user persona is a fictional character that represents a target audience. This biography includes their likes, dislikes, habits, and one or more needs that could be solved with your product or service. It also features demographic information like gender, age, income, and location.
Visualizing a typical customer can help you design a diagram that's intuitive and user-friendly. It also reminds you who the product is for and how they'll use it.
3. Build a user journey map.
The next step is building a user journey map. User journey maps show the actions users will take when interacting with your product. It should include timelines for completed actions, thoughts, and emotions that influence each action, and touchpoints where stages users will complete important actions.
Below is an example of a user journey map that outlines the steps a person would take when visiting a college campus.
Source: Iris Tong Wu
4. Understand the entry points.
Once your user journey map is laid out, you should consider the entry points where customers can access your website or product. This is essential as user journeys differ depending on where, when and how customers discover your business. For example, customers who access your site by direct traffic are going to have a different user journey than those who find your site through organic keywords.
User flows change for customers based on entry points since certain entry points imply that the user is a recurring, loyal customer, while others imply that the user is a first-time visitor. If you want to achieve customer success, both types of users need personalized solutions.
5. Start with a written outline.
A plain, written outline of your user flow can do wonders for helping you catch errors. First, it's easier to review a written document than it is to analyze a diagram. Second, with an outline, it's easier to focus on the content of your diagram than on how it looks aesthetically. Remember, it's more important for your diagram to be user-friendly than have a stylish design.
And, once your user flow is intuitive, you can edit your diagram to make it visually appealing. Using the outline as a reference, you can add and remove components while maintaining the core structure of your diagram. After all, it's easy to make a nice visual once the content is clear and concise.
6. Try out multiple diagrams.
You might have a design in mind, but when it's on paper, it ends up being too complex, unclear, or unrepresentative of the product. That's why it helps to try out a few formats before committing to one.
This means inputting text into a variety of templates and receiving feedback on which one works best. Then, you can move onto adding color, images, and visuals to help clarify different points. Finding the perfect design may take some time, so don't get discouraged if you have to test out a few diagrams.
7. Use shapes, graphics, images, and labels when necessary.
Once you've selected a design, it's time to get creative. While it's easy to get carried away with shapes, graphics, photos, and symbols, adding too many of these elements can distract users from the diagram's purpose.
Unnecessary images and text can be overwhelming for users who are new to your product. That's because it's harder to determine the right user path when there's irrelevant information in the diagram. So, stick to a more minimalist design and only add extra elements if they're helpful or clarify a point.
8. Prototype your user flow diagram.
Once you've completed your user flow diagram it's time to test it. Your test group should be a sample representing your target audience. Show the test users your diagram and have them try some of its actions.
During these tests, survey your participants for ample amounts of feedback. Are there actions that seem unnecessary, or instructions missing from the prototype? Is there a different approach to completing a task than the one you laid out? These kinds of questions can be answered by your test users and help you create a more user-centered final user flow.
Before putting these tips to the test, let's take a look at some real examples of user flow diagrams.
5 User Flow Examples
1. Software Product User Flow
This user flow shows links that users can follow when navigating a software product. It uses clear visuals to represent each step and maps out different path logic for completing a simple task.
2. Student Guide User Flow
This user flow outlines the links that can be followed on a student website. Check out the sidenotes that explain actions users should be able to complete at certain steps.
3. Mobile App User Flow
This is a great example of how to visualize a mobile app user flow using relevant visuals, simple text, and clear directions.
4. Music App User Flow
This user flow shows all the actions a user can complete with this music player app. This is a great example of how minimalist design can be made interesting with a strong color scheme.
5. E-Learning Platform User Flow
This user flow demonstrates that less can be more. With a few simple visuals and short accompanying text, this diagram is easy to follow and clearly demonstrates the use of the product.
To further improve user experience, learn how to conduct a cognitive walkthrough.
Originally published Sep 23, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated June 15 2021