What is a user flow & how do user flow tools improve UX?
Regardless of what type of website you're building – you want it to be successful. One of the best ways to achieve this is to shift your focus to a user-centered design. After all, your site is for them not an ego stroke for you. User flow tools are what get you to that promised land.
What is a user flow?
User flow is a depiction – in the form of a diagram or flowchart – of all the steps a user will take as they move through your website or app. It's the complete path they'll take from their entry point through to realizing their particular goal and onto their final interaction. So what is user flow? It's everything.
Where did the idea to create user flow originate anyway?
Oddly enough, it all comes from the pursuit of happiness. The term “flow” itself was coined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi – consider a founder of positive psychology – to describe “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” He even gave a TED Talk on it called, “Flow, the Secret to Happiness”, so you know it's legit.
Total immersion leading to fulfillment.
So how does that relate to apps and websites? Creating user flow diagrams allows you to create those immersive experiences where functionality is at its peak, allowing users to float through with ease. A website that has good user flow is one that doesn't interrupt a user's thought processes as they navigate through it. When you clearly understand your user's goal before you build anything, you can avoid added distractions or unnecessary clicks in a user's path.
Why user flow matters
Happy and engaged users translate into lower bounce rates, more time on-site and increased page views. That leads to increasingly better search results which becomes something of a positive feedback loop. All of it starts with planning; it's imperative to think about how your users will interact with your pages and content and to identify user entry points, goals and all the steps in between. Taken together, it's called UX design and a core tool to optimize user experience is mapping the user flow.
Putting this flow together in the early stage of development guides your overall website building process. Once you have a genuine understanding of what the user will be doing on your website, their interactions from page to page, deciding on what content to create and where to place it becomes a much simpler task.
Less guesswork and more intention.
It also helps you bring in the right team members and align the stakeholders. Crafting user flow in advance is an initial investment that can save you time and money on the backend by reducing revisions, excess pages or unneeded content.
When to create a website user flow diagram
Honestly, it's not a bad idea to incorporate them throughout. What does that mean? Well, user flows are of course particularly beneficial in the early planning phase for a new website. Once you've done your research, identified user needs and the rest of the nitty-gritty, developing a user flow diagram is useful in documenting, and getting a bird's eye view of, the specific steps a user has to take to reach their goals. In effect, this allows you to identify which pages you'll need to create, the order they'll go in and it informs the design process of how you'll arrange the pages themselves.
But it's not just new builds that need the mapping treatment (worth noting here that there's a difference between user flow vs sitemap). User flows are essential for diagnosing improvements in an existing system. By recognizing key goals and the paths users take to accomplish them, user flow diagrams can help you identify pathways that aren't as optimal as they could be. Leading you to look for ways in which you can reduce the number of steps it takes to reach a particular goal, get rid of content that might be irrelevant or mockup new designs that cut to the chase.
Also, keep in mind that there are generally multiple places to enter your site or app from, i.e., social media, email, search, etc. There are also multiple routes a user can take when there and multiple user personas you may be targeting. To that end, you may find it helpful to create multiple flow diagrams for each user type or goal rather than try to include everything in one flowchart or one path. This gives you an opportunity to create specialized paths for certain user personas that increase the chances of conversion by offering them targeted and relevant content or activities.
User experience flow diagramming: a big win for the end user
If happiness comes from being in a flow state, it stands to reason that great user experience does too. Diagramming is where UX starts, the foundation on which flow is established.
Crafting optimum user flow with a dedicated design tool and easy to understand process flow diagram symbols offer a top-down approach to designing exceptional user experience. Once in place, the user flow diagram is what you’ll filter information through to perfect your information architecture (IA), interaction design and user interface (UI).
Top-notch user experience is the sum of many parts but ultimately it starts at the meeting point of user needs and ease of navigability. Diagramming is what helps you sharpen that.
But wait, proceed with caution when using tools for user flows
A shorter path doesn't necessarily mean you're improving your odds of converting. When you remove what you think might be irrelevant content, you run the risk of cutting crucial info.
This is particularly true when it comes to funnels. While your goal is conversion, the path often starts with information seeking, buying into your solution, researching alternatives, and then deciding whether to buy or act. If you cut the content that builds trust, your “efficient” user path is now more likely to end in a bounce.
Take care not to fast-track visitors to the end goal too quickly. Understand that each point along the way is a key stop en route to getting them closer to taking action. When you force that too quickly, you risk a premature exit.
The best user flow tools are the starting point, the next step is proof
If real estate is all about location, location, location, then user flow success is all about analysis, analysis, analysis. Analytics are ultimately what provide proof that your product design is heading in the right direction. Building your site or app as planned is really a theoretical exercise until people start using it. Once they do, that's where tools to track user experience come in and there are few that we dig:
- Google Analytics
Designing a user flow is just the beginning, data is what helps you improve it, thereby improving the user experience in its entirety.
How Slickplan’s user flow diagram tool can help
As with most things in life, having the right tool for the job goes a long way. Our user flow creator can make a big difference in turning bounces into conversions.
Collaborative user flows
Improve user interface
Troubleshoot problem spots
Align user needs with functionality
Integration with visual sitemap
Try Slickplan’s online user flow tool free
Intuitive user flow is created by focusing on user needs and why someone is on your site in the first place. It's taking the time to understand their goals and creating pathways to meet them. Think of a user flow tool like ours as your digital whiteboard, where you can drag and drop steps and pages to visualize the flow. Then rearrange with ease to optimize it, removing barriers, dead-ends and anything else that gets in the way. And our user flow generator isn't limited to just user flow, it's packed with templates that you can use to refine the broader user journey, business processes, data flow, customer journey maps and more.
Build better flow with Slickplan's Diagram Maker.
Learn what makes a flow diagram different from all other diagram types and why it is so important in user experience planning.