From a Cool Idea to a High-Quality Product: Why You Need User Flow

IT people have heard a lot of stories starting with: ‘We had such an awesome idea that would definitely be a hit and help thousands of people! We had built up a team, created an MVP, started attracting users and…’. Usually, at this point, a speaker’s gaze fades, and he mumbles something like: ‘Well, it did not end as we had expected…’.

Being a co-founder of an IT startup, I know dozens of similar stories. Moreover, one of the projects I launched came to its end the same way. What exactly were we missing?

I would like to address one component of an IT project, which, when used wisely, helps to step up your game and stand out from competitors, increasing the chances of a successful project launch and meeting customer needs.

It is time to talk about a User Flow.

What is a User Flow?

Imagine you tap a ‘Send a Request’ button on a dating app after you have found a perfect match. And then… nothing happens. The service neither provides you with feedback on the result of a sent request nor suggests going to the Sent section. A user gets confused: what are they supposed to do now? It is obvious that in this case, developers have not looked at the request sending process from the perspective of a user. It would be quite useful to think through a User Flow in all cases such as this one.

User Flow is the visualization of the path taken by a service user. In reality, it looks like a diagram of actions taken by a user from an app launch until a goal is reached. User Flow might be developed for an entire app or for its stand-alone feature.

Why You Should Not Ignore User Flow 

‘This is an awesome idea! We have to launch a product ASAP before anyone else does! Details?… We will just do it on the go’. Well, I am afraid that an approach like that is a magnet for upcoming issues. Ignoring User Flow is a mistake that challenges the product viability.

User Flow Application Makes a Product More Attractive for a User

Coming up with an idea and realizing it is hard and complicated work. But making its interface user-friendly and convenient is even harder. If you miss this stage, an excellent idea and all the hard work might go down the drain.

A user tends to choose apps that make life easier. Our goal is to minimize routine actions like manual accounting of profit and other operations, which can be easily automated, from within a user’s life. This way, users of apps like this one get more time to spend with the family and loved ones and relax. A user gets more time for what really matters.

I like the analogy of a User Flow with a trip. Your goal is to go to New York City to buy a new shiny car. Our goal is to foresee all possible actions you are going to take to do so: from packing a suitcase (do you have your boarding pass and passport with you? If not, what needs to be done?) to landing in JFK. The ultimate challenge is to foresee all the possible mistakes that a user might make, help a user avoid them, or come up with ways to solve them. Admit it, leaving a boarding pass or your passport at home is the worst-case scenario when you are standing in front of a check-in desk before a flight.

User Flow helps to unveil hidden, ignored aspects at the early stages of idea elaboration and software development

For instance, a freelancer brokerage service. Basically, it looks like this: a freelancer checks available projects out – responds to one – completes it – sends it to a client. It cannot get any easier, right? But as soon as you start describing each step, some new circumstances and conditions appear. What is the best way freelancers can search for a project they can apply their expertise in? A filter is needed. What if a freelancer has a question about a project they are considering to take? Now you need to add an option of asking a question about a job. What happens as soon as a response is sent?

These details play a significant role defining if the user experience is going to be positive or negative; if it is going to be appreciated or not at all. 

The case from our experience: we were creating a dashboard within a service. At first, it seemed easy. The MVP was briefly developed and consisted only of four screens. Then, we realized that half of the integrated features needed a request to the Support team. A user would have to waste time sending requests, while the Support team would be distracted by messages about even the smallest aspects, instead of dealing with really complicated issues. We have decided that all of these features should be applied by users themselves. This way, it is easier and faster for everyone involved. Users are happy; the Support team works on really important tasks.  

Four simple screens turned into this:

User Flow Helps to Optimize a Development Process

If you contemplate all possible user flows, then software engineers have fewer questions in terms of how software is supposed to work, how screens are related to each other, what is the way the interaction occurs. It makes the development process faster and pushes the entire process to the release stage. 

Software engineers can still carry on even if you forget about User Flow, missing one or more possible flows. But later a huge chunk of code will need rewriting. As a result, you neither meet deadlines nor fit into an allocated budget.

A month of a designer’s work can generate a six-month load of work for software engineers. What is less harmful: to include six extra hours of design or to lose 2-4 months on rewriting. The answer is obvious. 

If we consider my personal entrepreneurship experience, I can state that we ignored User Flow at the very start of the project. By the time an MVP had been launched, we realized that due to constant changes and elimination of faults in the work logic of a product, we had missed all the possible deadlines.

Do not repeat that and learn from the mistakes of others.

How to Make a User Flow?

User Flow design comes from research of the audience, the market, and the context a product is going to be applied in. There are no standards as to what a User Flow should look like. The crucial thing is that a sequence of actions covers the entire feature set, considering all case scenarios, making everything clear for your team. 

User Flow is often pictured as a logic diagram, describing specific sequential actions of users in each scenario. A logic diagram usually consists of 3 blocks: screen – conditional – action.

It is important to consider specific features of a product and your own preferences when designing a User Flow. Some people find it more convenient to make drafts of future screens at first and then connect them to each other. Other people write down common actions and seek the best way to solve a user’s issue, considering the context a user is solving it in. 

Tools to Design a User Flow

I personally enjoy using Miro. It is possible to change settings fast, depending on customized requirements, and make huge branching diagrams. An easy Flow might be created in Figma (especially after it introduced its special plug-ins), but, unfortunately, it does not have as many diagrams as Miro. 

The simplest User Flow can even be drawn on a piece of paper. Such a User Flow is better than nothing.

A future project might seem complicated and incoherent. But as soon as a User Flow is designed, all the aspects usually get much clearer for all the members of a team. Such a diagram has to demonstrate a clear structure of a future project, still leaving an option of further change. Then, in case a new feature is added, you simply add a new branch and integrate a new feature set seamlessly. 

Design of a User Flow saves you loads of money, time and effort.

In case you have any questions, please, send them to our email. Our team experts will respond to it. This way you get the answer you need, and we get a basis for our future Q&A!

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