Go to app
GuidesUser experience (UX)User flows 101: Guide with examples

User flows 101: Guide with examples

Last updated

12 April 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Eliz Ayaydin

Working in a large organization with over 100+ employees? Discover how Dovetail can scale your ability to keep the customer at the center of every decision.Contact sales.

User flows are innovative tools, yet UX designers often misunderstand and avoid them. These flows show all user interactions on a website from start to finish. 

Keep reading to learn more about user flows, how they can help you understand customer behavior, and tips on creating them.

Analyze user journeys

See the full picture when you bring all your user research into one place to tag, analyze, and understand

Get started in Dovetail

What are user flows?

A user flow is a visual representation that shows how a user moves through an application or website. It indicates each step along the product journey. 

User flows help UX designers see where users face challenges, so they can make changes to create a smoother experience. 

A flow begins at an entry point into a task and ends at the final interaction point. 

For instance, if a customer purchases a product, the entry point is the shopping cart and the final interaction is placing an order. 

Why do we use user flows in UX design? 

In UX design, user flows help with the following:

Creating an intuitive interface

User flows are key to creating a seamless, intuitive user experience. A user flow can identify a confusing design feature or areas where a user is experiencing difficulty navigating. 

With user flows, UX designers can enhance the ease of movement through the website and increase the chances of a user purchasing a product or service. 

Evaluating existing interfaces

User flows expose areas of the product with poor experiences, allowing designers to identify ways to improve them. They are an excellent way of optimizing existing products. 

Presenting your product to clients or colleagues

User flows give the whole team a better understanding of the user experience architecture. They communicate the flow of a product and give a general overview of how a user interface works. This helps designers communicate what the product does to clients or colleagues. 

Why are user flows important? 

Here are some benefits of user flows:

1. They communicate product goals and plans to stakeholders

A user flow is effective when communicating with stakeholders as it clearly represents an application's pages, movements, and buttons. A well-designed user flow also describes each step. Having a visual walk-through shows stakeholders what the product should do. 

2. They speed development and reduce errors

User flows allow the production team to identify and fix errors in time. With a visual representation of how users complete tasks, designers code the product in a way that reduces errors and avoids delays.

3. They promote a user-centered design

A user flow ensures experiences that meet the user's needs. User flows force the product development team to consider the user's perspective. This leads to UX designers creating systems where users can complete transactions quickly and easily. 

When should you use user flows?

You should work with user flows early in the design process. An example is the development team working on information architecture and UI design, optimizing the user experience with the help of user flows.

User flows are also useful for:

  • Designers who want to evaluate existing interfaces

  • Understanding how users interact with a specific feature within a service or product

  • Testing a product’s functionality

Types of user flow charts

You can use various types of user flow charts depending on the application:

Task flows

This type of user flow focuses on a single task a user can perform. Generally, they show one path rather than multiple pathways. A common assumption of a task flow is that all users have a common starting point, and there is no variation in the completed tasks. 

Wireflows

Wireflows are a combination of flowcharts and wireframes. They use the layout of individual screens, so they’re great for creating mobile screens. Wireflows show the relationship between the screens and the data between them. 

User flows

User flows expand on task and wireflows. User flows show how users navigate through a website or application and focus on the user's interaction with your products. 

Where do user flows fit into the UX design process? 

User research and competitor analysis

User research helps designers learn user objectives when visiting a website. This information influences every step of the process. 

User flows help designers understand behaviors and identify gaps to gain a competitive advantage. They can uncover valuable insights about competitor mistakes, avoiding those mistakes, and improving products to make them desirable. 

Start with a basic user flow chart

UX designers can create a user flow chart with the basic information from user research. A basic flow chart should indicate the entry and all decision points. 

In addition, you should represent each touchpoint with a node in the chart. Nodes are shapes and symbols representing unique user actions or decisions.

Combining user flows with wireframes (wireflows)

User flows give way to the development of wireflows. Wireflows combine flow charts and wireframes, giving a designer a greater context of how a product will function. Individual screens live within the flow chart diagram.

Creating hi-fi user flows

Once designers test wireframes and gain insight into user actions, they can create high-fidelity user flows. These are the most accurate depictions of the user journey

Remember that users may travel different paths in more refined flows, representing a larger number of different scenarios and starting points.

8 best practices to design user flow diagrams 

User flow diagrams are indispensable for optimizing user experience. Keep these eight best practices in mind to create a superior user experience:

1. Descriptive name

A descriptive name will help users immediately understand the flow, so ensure you select a name that clearly conveys the meaning of the flow. 

2. One-directional flows

Flows that move in a single direction ensure clear navigation. 

3. One goal per flow

Remember that user flows aim to simplify the paths for accomplishing a goal. Choose one goal per flow so objectives are clear and users complete one goal at a time. 

4. Always have a legend key

A legend key ensures users understand each node’s shape or symbol. Mention the purpose of each node and the touchpoint it represents. 

5. Decide on an entry point

Consider the point of entry as it’s the first thing users see when visiting your site. Make the first experience easy for users to navigate by establishing a one-directional flow from your entry point. 

6. Clear labels

Use clear labels to avoid ambiguity and ensure all website visitors understand the information you’re conveying. Label all screens, actions, and decisions. 

7. Use colors wisely

Colors in design highlight important user actions. Avoid excessive color schemes, as visual noise may lose the message. 

8. Provide a clear resolution

Remember the image resolution when using a flow diagram: The shapes should be visible so they don’t strain the user's eyes. A clear resolution eliminates the possibility of misinterpreting information. 

Examples of user flow

An example is a customer’s purchase flow on an e-commerce website. A purchase flow helps a user buy a product or service. 

Initial steps include account creation, signup, and confirmation. 

The user then takes these steps:

1. The user starts at the landing page (homepage)

2. They navigate to a product category, i.e., grocery, clothing, or cosmetics

3. They select an item and access the item's detail page

4. They add the item to the cart

5. They navigate to the checkout page and complete the purchase

6. A confirmation page may pop up to show the order is ready for shipping

7 strategies to improve your user flow

Here are seven ways to make your system more user-friendly:

Keep your content short

Users get overwhelmed with too much content. 

Maximize the use of graphics

This engages users and guides them in the right direction. 

Understand your entry points

Knowing where users find your site will help you create a plan to move them into the flow. Use Google Analytics to learn where users land on your website. 

Use clear, concise instructions

This enables users to complete tasks without getting frustrated. 

Simplify input forms and fields

Ensure users don’t have to go through unnecessary steps to complete a form. 

Gather user feedback by hiring a UX researcher

Better yet, involve users in analyzing and optimizing your user flow. Feedback will identify ways to make your website more responsive and intuitive. 

Regularly test your user flow

This will ensure that it is working well and is user-friendly.

How A/B testing can improve your user flow

If you want to know whether your UX designs are effective, A/B testing is a valuable tool. A/B testing allows you to test different interface versions to establish their effectiveness. 

A/B testing can improve your user flow by:

1. Solving user pain points, such as struggling to find a call-to-action button

2. Identifying a design change with the best user feedback

3. Helping you avoid changes with negative consequences

4. Making incremental changes to enhance the overall design

FAQs

What is the difference between user flow and user scenario?

A user scenario is a detailed description of a persona's situation relevant to the goal or the design. In contrast, a user flow shows the steps a user takes to complete an action. 

What is the difference between a sitemap and user flow?

A sitemap is a general outline of a website's pages, videos, or links, whereas a user flow is a series of steps from beginning to end.

A sitemap provides information about the contents (and the relationship between the contents) of a page. A user flow shows the path a user takes when using a website.

Is user flow UX or UI?

User flows are essential to UX design since they help designers see how users navigate an application or website. User flows have less to do with the look and feel of the UI directly, but the quality of the UI impacts the user experience.

Who is responsible for user flow?

A UX designer creates intuitive user interfaces to ensure better user flows.

Should you be using a customer insights hub?

Do you want to discover previous user research faster?

Do you share your user research findings with others?

Do you analyze user research data?

Start for free today, add your research, and get to key insights faster

Get Dovetail free

Editor’s picks

Maximizing UX research impact on limited time and budget

Last updated: 25 June 2023

What is interaction design?

Last updated: 18 April 2023

What is Conway's Law?

Last updated: 15 January 2024

User persona templates

Last updated: 24 June 2023

User persona templates

Last updated: 29 May 2023

What is contextual inquiry?

Last updated: 14 March 2023

What is brand experience?

Last updated: 19 May 2023

What is the design cycle?

Last updated: 30 April 2024

Guide to generative UX research

Last updated: 13 April 2023

10 best UX design bootcamps for 2024

Last updated: 7 July 2023

Usability testing templates

Last updated: 13 May 2024

Latest articles

Usability testing templates

Last updated: 13 May 2024

What is the design cycle?

Last updated: 30 April 2024

What is Conway's Law?

Last updated: 15 January 2024

10 best UX design bootcamps for 2024

Last updated: 7 July 2023

User persona templates

Last updated: 24 June 2023

User persona templates

Last updated: 29 May 2023

What is brand experience?

Last updated: 19 May 2023

What is interaction design?

Last updated: 18 April 2023

Guide to generative UX research

Last updated: 13 April 2023

What is contextual inquiry?

Last updated: 14 March 2023

Related topics

Employee experienceUser experience (UX)Patient experienceSurveysMarket researchCustomer researchResearch methodsProduct development

Decide what to build next

Decide what to build next

Get Dovetail free

Product

OverviewChannelsMagicIntegrationsEnterpriseInsightsAnalysisPricingLog in

Company

About us
Careers16
Legal
© Dovetail Research Pty. Ltd.
TermsPrivacy Policy

Log in or sign up

Get started for free


or


By clicking “Continue with Google / Email” you agree to our User Terms of Service and Privacy Policy