Obstacle courses are great…if your intention is to play on one. They’re not so great when you’re navigating a website or app. In fact, there’s arguably no quicker way to lose a visitor than having a site that’s set up like an obstacle course. A user flow diagram is the answer.
User flow diagrams in UX design explained
A user flow diagram – aka a UX process diagram or UX flow chart — is a simple, clean visual representation of a user’s steps or path to complete a task within your app or website. In terms of the UX design process, you’d be hard-pressed to nail user experience and meet users’ needs without establishing how they interact with your product; the entry points, decision points and general flow of users through to the final interaction.
The idea is to create clarity of purpose for each step which culminates in an intuitive flow and a better user experience overall.
You’re going to want to consider using a purpose-built user flow tool for this as diagramming can get messy if you’re unsure of what you’re doing.
Keep in mind that a user flow diagram is not the same as a task flow diagram. Task flows are the linear steps to complete a task that all users will do in the same way and via the same entry point. You won’t have multiple branches or paths with task flows.
How are user flows useful?
If your goal is to snag that coveted conversion, you need to make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for. Dialing in user flow and task flows is the ticket.
Not only do they make it easier for people to navigate your site, but they also have more wide-reaching implications, like improving your organic search results by clueing you into user intent, for example. That allows you to sharpen the path even more and adjust to smooth out pain points.
Once you’ve gone through the product development process and come up with a great digital product, create user flow to guide people through it – your website or app is an asset, not an obstacle course.
Here are more ways in which they’re useful:
1. User flow charts help to easily communicate what user flow should be
How you think someone will use your site and how different users actually use it aren’t always the same thing. Creating app or website flow diagrams is what lets you square that circle and describe how the flow should be in order to benefit the user.
A UX user flow chart, supported by user research, allows you to test the theoretical flow you envisioned and shape it to the users’ objectives. All of that in an easy-to-understand diagram.
2. UX flows help you draw conclusions at low fidelity
Before sinking a lot of time, energy and resources (read: money) into fully developing and building out your site or app, you’re going to want to be as sure as possible that everything makes sense. A UX user flow diagram or page flow diagram that incorporates prototypes, mockups and wireframes — known as wire flows — lets you get a look at everything in a lo-fi, less cost-intensive, state.
From there you can work with your UX designer, stakeholders and other relevant contributors to interpret and before solidifying it in your UX/UI design.
3. UX user flows show the path a user takes
User flows break down what it takes to complete a task into its component steps and let you assess the inherent logic from one screen to the next. Putting together a screen flow diagram, a hi-fidelity version of a wire flow, shows you user paths based on the navigational choices being made with main user interface elements in place.
Creating various user flow examples that outline the varied paths and user actions possible helps you cover all the bases.
4. User flows allow you to get feedback from different team members
User flow diagrams should be made collaboratively; having plenty of competent people involved in the process — and giving feedback — can bring much-needed perspective. That goes a long way in improving UI/UX. The more roadblocks you can remove from a path the better, just avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen.
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How to make a user flow diagram using Slickplan
Remember, the point of a user flow diagram is to see and understand exactly how people make their way through your app or site. How they, um, flow from step to step, decision to decision, screen to screen.
Although it sounds simple, there’s quite a bit that goes into crafting quality user paths.
Let’s break down how it’s done.
1. Know the customer journey
Start by creating a customer journey map, aka a user journey map, to get a deep understanding of your visitors. These maps are inherently more complex than a user flow since they cover much more ground, encompassing time before and after using your site or app and all the touchpoints in between.
First, you’ll need to do your research and create a user persona around which you’ll map the journey. From there you’ll spell out and identify all the points of interaction a customer will have with your company. The motivations that bring them to you. Their needs. How they feel before, during and after those interactions.
User flows, by contrast, focus solely on the on-site/in-app experience.
Creating these maps requires a lot more legwork but the depth of understanding you get from this sort of resource is huge when it comes to your user flow diagram.
2. Define and understand your goal and the user’s goal
What are you trying to accomplish? Boost conversion rate with more product sales? Get someone to download your case study? Acquire email addresses for a newsletter? Get more subscribers? Share content?
It’ll be easy for you to pinpoint your own goals.
What are your customers trying to accomplish though?
Naming the user goals, on the other hand, is more challenging.
That’s where the customer journey map you made in step 1 comes into play; having a firm grasp on your user’s journey will help you uncover the needs and motivations that define their goals.
In the end, you can’t make an effective user path without A) knowing where you want to send people and B) understanding why they’re there to begin with.
3. Establish how visitors find you in the first place
It’s critical to know where visitors enter your site, i.e., what page, and how they got there. It can be paid ads, social media, organic search, an email campaign, etc. Google Analytics is your go-to source to determine this.
Where they enter matters because it tells you important information about the user, dictates what they should find once they arrive and helps define what their next steps will be.
When you build out your flowchart, you’ll want to make a separate user flow for each entry point so you can refine the experience across the board.
4. Determine the information a user needs to move forward – and when they need it
No matter where someone arrives from, they’re looking for something, otherwise, there’d be no reason to come to your site or app at all.
The question is, are they finding what they need at the point at which they need it? If not, they’ll bounce in a heartbeat. If the info they actually want exists but lives 4 clicks away, are they really going to click around and hunt for it? Doubtful.
You and your team need to see things from the user’s perspective at this point and constantly be asking yourselves what they want at any given point. If you’re working on an existing app or website, you can ask actual users for their input here.
Also, revert back to your journey map here and consider their feelings and motivation throughout an interaction to help determine what they need to move forward.
This is tricky when it comes to funnels because while your goal may be a sale, the user path may intentionally require more distance from entry to task completion. Rushing visitors to checkout, skipping steps along the way, can actually backfire and potentially create distrust. Success in that sense is defined by other metrics; downloads, shares, newsletter sign-ups, etc.
5. Connect those dots and actually map the flow
With all that knowledge in place and a clear idea of both what users want and how you can deliver it effectively, it’s finally time to put it all together.
As mentioned, you’ll start with an entry point and build out from there, incorporating all the decision points on the way to task completion. Consult that customer journey map of yours and consider all the actions before too as that could help you determine if you need to build landing pages, what your calls-to-action should be and where to put them and more.
We’d recommend skipping the old-school pen and paper and incorporating proper user flow tools in which you can quickly drag and drop all the flowchart symbols necessary to chart the path. This ensures you have a diagram that’s easily editable. A living document.
6. Share and get feedback
Don’t rush into development just yet.
Once you’ve got what you feel is a solid user flow, share that flowchart with as many different people and stakeholders as you can and get their honest feedback. Then adjust as necessary.
This is a great place to get the clients involved and get their comments as well.
The more collaborative you can make this, the better the path and user experience will be.
7. Finalize and move into production
At this stage in the workflow, you can pass the baton — and the user flow diagram — to your development team to start building your site or app. It’ll help guide the decision-making of all the team members involved in turning your concept into reality.
Of course, you’ll want to always remain open to any additional feedback your developers and web design team provide as they get into the nitty-gritty of their work. To that end, it’s nice to work with a diagram tool like Slickplan that allows for feedback and notes to be added straight to the diagram — instantly accessible by all parties working on the chart.
3 user flow diagram examples
Here are a few user flow examples to give you a sense of how these puppies look. If you want to toy around with them, each of these is available as a diagram template and there are plenty more in our library.
1. Registration process flow chart
This standard user flowchart shows the basic flow of becoming a registered user on a site or app.
2. Checkout process flow chart
Making checkout painless is huge, this UX flow diagram shows all the tasks involved in an e-commerce purchase from entering the site to order confirmation.
3. Login process flow chart
No matter how mundane a task is or how often we’ve all repeated it — like logging in to a site or app — establishing the flow is still important.
At the core of any successful user flow lies a fundamental understanding of your users; their wants, needs and motivations. For a website and app to do the job and meet your goals, as well as theirs, it can’t be haphazardly pieced together. Cohesion in the flow leads to a more compelling user experience overall. User flow charts are the conduit by which you get there.
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FAQs on UX flow diagrams
Who needs a UX user flow diagram?
For the most part, everyone can benefit from utilizing these flowcharts. Every company or individual with an app or website should have a user flow diagram. This is particularly true of websites or apps that are more complex, where functional, seamless navigation is an integral part of the UX.
What makes a great website flow chart?
Clarity of purpose in how a task is completed is the benchmark. If, after you finish your user experience flow chart, the flow for any given process feels convoluted, you need to iterate further and get more feedback. Plainly put, a UX diagram is considered effective when it makes sense.
In addition to that, you'll want to ensure that you're using the standard diagramming symbols so that everyone looking at the chart can immediately grasp its meaning instead of having to consult a key.
How can I create a website user flow?
Creating a website flow diagram can be done in 7 steps:
- Establish customer journey
- Define goals, yours and the user's
- Learn how visitors find you
- Determine what info they need and when
- Build the actual diagram
- Get feedback from stakeholders
- Finalize and produce