What Is a User Flow?
A user flow is a chart or diagram showing the path a user will take in an application to complete a task. Product teams build user flows to intuitive design products, present the correct information to users at the right time, and allow users to complete desired tasks in as few steps as possible.
Are User Flow and Customer Journey the Same?
Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they are not the same. A customer journey is much broader. It includes all customer touchpoints with a company—from viewing its advertising to going through the purchase process to interact with customer support.
A user flow describes only the customer’s path through the company’s app or website.
Why Are User Flows Important?
Product managers, UX designers, and other product team members employ user flows for several essential reasons.
1. They communicate product goals and plans to stakeholders.
User flows create a visual illustration of the steps a user will take to get things done in an app.
Having this visual walkthrough helps everyone understand what the product should do, what order it should present the user with information, and why each feature or page belongs where it is.
2. They speed development and reduce errors.
When developers are working from a visual depiction of how the user will complete tasks in the product, they are more likely to code the product in the way the product team envisions. This reduces the chances of rework and delays.
3. They promote user-centered design.
The most important aspect of user flows is that they force the product team to think through their product’s interface from the user’s perspective.
When building a user flow diagram, a product team can see early in the process if they create an experience that could lead to user confusion, frustration, or impatience.
Doing this work upfront can lead to a more intuitive product that delights customers.
What Are Some Common User Flow Examples?
Businesses can create user flows to diagram (and improve) many engagement users have with their companies. Here are a few common examples:
- A user wants to complete a specific task in our app
- A user visits our website to learn about our SaaS software
- A user visits our website to sign up for our free trial
- A shopper wants to buy a product from our eCommerce site
- A reader wants to sign up for our newsletter on our website
Pro Tip: Create User Flows Based on Product Usage Data
Here is a useful but overlooked application of user flow diagrams. A product team can apply usage data from its product to build user flows—and learn how existing customers are getting things done in the product.
Mapping out a common path to complete a task can reveal interesting insights. The product team might have assumed users would take one path but discover they’re using another. The team might also realize users have found a faster, more intuitive way to get something done.
Learning this can help the team update the product (and build future products) more intuitively.
How Can You Improve Your User Flow Diagrams?
Here are a few tips to help make sure your team is building a product with intuitive design.
1. Limit each diagram to a single objective.
You can create user flows for many aspects of your product or website. But limit each diagram to just one user goal or path. Adding too many goals or tasks can make the user flow confusing and undermine its value at revealing problems with the flow of opportunities to streamline it.
2. Limit each diagram to one entry point.
The first tip above also applies to users starting the same flow from different entry points. You want to consider the user’s entry point to your app or website when deciding how to present information and a path to their goal. Users landing on your homepage from a Google search of your company’s name will need information presented differently than users who arrive on your pricing page directly from an online ad.
3. Create a UX/UI roadmap.
Finally, you can make the user flow a priority on your product team when you create and maintain a UX/UI roadmap. This roadmap can help your team keep user-centered design top-of-mind at every stage of your product development.