How to create user flow: 4 advanced tips for UX designers

The creation of any digital product in terms of design is a comprehensive process that requires parallel work on user flows, sitemaps, and wireframes. Moreover, the most effective results are achieved when the designer combines all these aspects. That is why we decided to prepare a small guide on how to put this idea into practice

FlowMapp Visual sitemap design tool interface. Website structure

4 steps to create effortless user flows diagrams

Step 1. Understand your target audience

No really cool design is complete without taking the time to understand who you create it for. In particular, you need:

Define the goals of end users

In a nutshell, you will need to understand what tasks your users should be able to solve when interacting with one or another element of your design. You can start with global goals and then gradually break these goals into more specific ones. Qualitative methods are usually the most effective in such research since they are responsible for the actual interaction with potential users. In particular, you can resort to focus group surveys and contextual research

Identify the functionality they need

Once you've identified the average user of your product, you need to understand how you can apply your product to help them achieve their goals. In particular, you can try the Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) approach by formulating tasks from the user's perspective and prioritizing them

Analyze possible interaction scenarios

Finally, you must determine how the goals identified in the previous step can be achieved in the simplest and least resource-intensive way. To do this, you can resort to the storyboarding method, visualizing the stages of user interaction with the interface to complete a specific task (we think that, to some extent, this is even fun since it is similar to creating comics)

User flow tool interface. Logical blocks and arrow connectors

Step 2. Build a website visual map

Now you can safely start defining the hierarchy of content and features. This is usually done with a sitemap. In essence, this is a visualized project plan based on of which you can create wireframes. Here is how such maps are built:

Break global tasks into one-action subtasks

Breaking down global goals into one-step actions will help you choose the most effective path to achieve them. For example, to buy a specific product in an online store, the user first goes to the main page of the website, then enters the appropriate query in the search field, filters the products if necessary, goes to the page with the desired product, analyzes its description and reviews, adds the product to the cart, and finally, pays for it. The result of these actions is usually an order confirmation email

Build a tree graph with a proper hierarchy

Now, you can build a tree graph, which is built according to the hierarchy of subtasks defined in the previous step. It is important to come up with such chains of these subtasks so that for each global goal, their number is minimal. In this way, you will provide the most pleasant user experience. To make sure you've chosen the right approach, you'll need to test your hypotheses with a focus group of potential users. If they find the chains of actions convenient for them, then you move in the right direction

Visual sitemaps page cards with text preview on a page covers

Step 3. Create wireframes

Once you have a global map of your website, you can start wireframing, that is, the implementation of the schematic hierarchy of elements on individual web pages. At this stage, you will need to match the map with the results of your storyboarding so that you have a comprehensive understanding of how it all works together. Here's what it looks like in practice:

Decide what specific task each of the wireframes will perform

In particular, you will need to understand why you create a particular type of page. In the context of e-commerce websites, this could be a home page, a shopping cart page, a product description page, a product catalog page, etc. It is crucial to add text notes when describing these tasks that briefly and clearly demonstrate the purpose of each of the wireframes. Thus, even at this stage, you can already discard the need to develop some types of pages

Set the content hierarchy on the pages

This stage should begin with the development of a content strategy. Therefore, you need to understand which elements and types of content will be most important to your target audience and prioritize them in your wireframes. In doing so, you have to strive to place page components in an orderly manner, avoiding chaos

And yes, don't forget about the comments

One of the major disadvantages of wireframing is their low fidelity in the early stages of development. This introduces ambiguity in the implementation of some components (buttons, forms, popups, etc.) and forces designers to rework things that they initially thought were clear. That is why text comments are needed to help you explain those things that don't have to be visualized schematically

wireframe tool by flowmapp interface: template panel and website blocks

Step 4. Ensure logical connection between wireframes

Finally, you'll need to wire the wireframes together in a way that allows users to navigate seamlessly through them. As a result, you will get a consistent website structure, which can already be passed to the implementation. Specifically, here's what you'll need to do:

Actually, connect the wireframes

This procedure is performed schematically. You just have to connect wireframes to each other with arrows and write above these arrows what user actions result in the transition

Test

Until you are sure that your choice of hierarchy is the most correct, you should not move on to the implementation. For this, focus group testing will again come to the rescue

Fix the found errors

If representatives of your focus group considered some aspects of the interaction with your product to be imperfect, think about how you can optimize them and refine them. After that, test your structure again, repeating this process until your focus group is satisfied with everything (of course, within the time allotted for this process)

example of user flow, combined with site page cards

Final Thoughts

Perhaps everything that we have described above may seem hard to do at first glance, but just believe us: the result is worth it! By the way, you can implement all this with just one solution - the FlowMapp integrated platform, which we created just with these goals in mind. In particular, you can implement the described scenario using the User Flow tool for the 1st stage, the Sitemap tool for the 2nd stage, and the Wireframes tool - for the 3rd and the 4th stages. You can learn more about the main features of our all-purpose solution here.

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