Flow Design Processes – Focusing on the Users’ Needs

It can be really tempting to start a design project by leaping into the deep end and starting to sketch out pages and work on the information architecture of the final product. However, it’s almost certainly the wrong approach to take. To create great user experiences – designers must focus on the user’s needs and that means developing an understanding of how to create the best task flow for that user. The better you facilitate the user moving from start to finish on a particular process – the easier the product is to work with and the more likely that you are to deliver an awesome user experience.

Flow design doesn’t just have to examine user flows – it can also examine other types of flow. However, UX designers are generally going to be concerned with user flows.

How Do We Design for User Flow?

We begin with the user themselves. Instead of going through the technical specification documents and trying to base designs on that – we examine what the user’s objective (or objectives) are and what the business’s objective (or objectives) are.

So for example on a retail website this might include:

  • User wants to buy a new product
  • User wants to research alternative products
  • User wants to return a product

By mapping out all the possible objectives and comparing them to business objectives – it becomes easy to create user flows. Flows are simply the process steps from the user arriving on a website to completing their task or tasks.

Once you know what users want to do – you might also want to look at where a user might arrive on your site and where they are coming from. A user who is responding to e-mail marketing will probably be delivered to a different place in the site to a user who finds you through organic search.

These define the entry points into task completion funnels (similar to marketing conversion funnels).

The classic conversion funnel is one that nearly everyone in marketing and product design is familiar with. It tracks the expectation of customers moving through a sales flow.

The Task Completion Funnel

Task completion funnels should be designed for flow from the point of entry to the funnel to the completion of the task.

This will normally involve:

  • Design of the point of entry (Banner Ad, Search Text, E-mail, etc.)
  • Design of the landing page (How will you welcome the visitor to the site and get them to begin the process for which they arrived?)
  • Design of the process itself

Considerations for Point of Entry

With each point of entry you may want to consider:

  • What user group or groups are we targeting with this point of entry?
  • Are they actively looking to get involved with our site or product or are they going to “stumble” across us?
  • Will they be looking to solve a problem and if so what?
  • How can we grab their attention and hold it for long enough for them to decide to click through to the site?
  • How can we best relate to the user involved? What messages might work well with these users? Can we articulate their pain points and a solution simply?
  • What are the best calls to action to use to get that click through?

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