What are User Flows and why they're still an important artefact to create within UX
User Flows bring huge benefits to any project and ultimately help to deliver a great experience, whether that's a native app, website, system or application.
There are occasions when creating user flows are overlooked, and designers jump straight into creating user journeys and wireframes. I've created a list of reasons why user flows remain such an important artefact that we – as UX professionals – should create for virtually every project.
Summarising the benefits
- They start to shape a hierarchical structure of how pages are related and grouped (albeit, creating a sitemap would be the main artefact to represent groups and hierarchy), as well as highlighting which pages different persona groups would typically view when completing key tasks.
- They identify which user stories should be included on each page (split across MVP or beyond) where we can start documenting ideas on features & functionality of how we best represent the stories to relevant users. This also ensures we're more informed when we start creating wireframes.
- They provide clarity across expected entry & exit points and what pages logically connect to each other, which will help inform the wireframe process in designing a suitable structure and hierarchy. For example: If the page is part of a longer process then it's important to include signposts that allow the user to proceed to the new page with as limited friction as possible. Or if there are a group of pages that feel relevant then you may want to present these via tabs instead of specific individual pages.
User Journeys are different to User Flows because they're about defining the next level of detail, with a focus on how a user completes specific individual key tasks.
- They're a great way to quickly highlight how the existing journey could be improved if the new proposed user flow will dramatically reduce steps/pages. It's worth creating an existing user flow to create real impact when comparing to the new user flow, as well helping to ensure everyone within the project has a clear view of the existing standpoint to reduce ambiguity and misunderstanding (and this can happen a lot).
- They provide a reference key for all future design artefacts being created (such as user journeys, wireframes, prototypes).
- They should be constantly maintained and referred to throughout the project because it provides a high-level view of all tasks within the entire experience that your project is focusing on, which isn't available anywhere else. Sometimes these user flows can be very large and detailed, but they bring so much value.
- They should always be clearly visible within the project team, which is why we always recommend printing in A0.
Typical example of a User Flow key
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About the Author
Andy Wilby has been an Experience Design professional for over 14 years, responsible for solving key business problems of all sizes. Companies he's worked for include HSBC, Aviva, NHS, Bupa, Co-op and Government agencies to name a few. Previous to joining Answer Digital, he was a Lead UX at Aviva for a 45-strong team of designers. His passion is working with clients to help solve complicated problems through simple experiences, marrying business and customer needs.
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