If you have ever spoken to a web designer about their job, you may have found yourself drowning in technical jargon such as ‘flowchart, user flow, user journey, wireframes, and UI.’
These terms can be hard to grasp, and are often ignored when assessing priorities when it comes to designing a new website. When building a new website for the first time, most professionals focus on two primary goals:
- Does my website look good?
- Does it function?
Developing a flowchart and wireframing can seem unnecessary at first glance. This could not be further from the truth. Insights into the user journey, and a well thought out user interface is vital for every website, from a small start up with two pages to a £30K ecommerce platform. It allows you to guide your customers and achieve your business goals much more effectively.
So what exactly is a ‘user flow’ and what does it mean for the user journey?
A user flow can be compared to a dance mat. One step to the right, one to the left, turn around – and suddenly you’re moving. You don’t need to be an experienced dancer to make the correct movements because you are guided every step of the way. The user flow works in a similar way, guiding the user journey in a simple and straightforward way, leaving little room for error. This is usually visualised in a flow chart. The user flow sets out the exact journey each user takes, from the homepage, to a service page, and finally to the contact form you want them to fill in.
What are the benefits of developing a user flow?
If you start your process by developing a user flow you will find yourself reaping the benefits of this, as you continue to work on your website. It makes a difference in a variety of ways including:
1. It unites your team
When working with stakeholders, designers and developers, it can often be difficult to see eye to eye on the direction you wish to take your website. Having a visual representation that is easy to read and understand for all, can create unity, All parties can agree on the user journey and the objectives and priorities within the site to promote mutual understanding.
2. It informs the design
Wireframes and prototypes should be based on a clear understanding of the user journey and user experience. Once a designer knows the exact user flow, they can make informed decisions on the overall layout, highlighting the areas you want the user to click.
3. It helps you win your customer’s loyalty
Kofi Senaya from Clearbridge Mobile, a mobile app development agency, says that “mapping out the customer journey is an effective way to understand what turns a viewer into a long-term, loyal customer”.
Giving thought to your user journey prior to designing and developing your site allows you to delve into the behaviour of your customers and create a website that feels intuitive to them. Flowing through the content with ease keeps your customers happy and will tempt them to return to you over the coming weeks, months and years.
What do you need to consider when mapping out the user journey?
In order to create a user flow that works the way you want, you need to consider several factors. There are a number of questions you will need to ask yourself before you can start:
Who are my customers? What are their goals? How do they behave?
Like any area of your website, your user flow needs to be informed by your target audience. Research who you want to reach and what their likes, dislikes, wins and risks are. If you’re unsure about this, make sure you address this first. We may be able to help you find out who your ideal client is.
Once you have narrowed down your clients, research their behaviours and find out what motivated them to visit your website. If you are looking to redesign an existing website, you can use Google Analytics to gain valuable insights in the user journey of your current visitors.
2. What are my goals and objectives?
To effectively map the ideal user journey, you need to define what you would like your website to achieve overall. Are you looking to drive more leads? Do you want your users to sign up for an event or leave you a message? Do you simply want to inform them and share specific content? Setting these business goals will help you select key pages and key areas within your website, so you can steer your users towards this content.
3. Where will my users land? Are there any pitfalls I should avoid?
To set up a successful user journey, you need to know exactly where this journey will start. A website that is SEO optimised will lead traffic from Google, which could send them to a landing page instead of your homepage. You need to ensure all your pages can guide your user in the right direction, no matter where they first land. Develop a ‘yellow brick road’ – the ideal path for users to travel. Some users may stray from this road, but you can prevent them from getting lost by user testing your website and creating failsafe solutions within your designs.
Once your user journey is visualised, you can use this flowchart to inform the following steps in your development process. Your wireframes and prototypes should conform to the user flow and use effective solutions to ‘steer’ your users to the most important areas within the website. A website that uses these methods will be user friendly and convert clicks into leads with ease.
Reap the long-term benefits of an effective user journey
As we discussed earlier in this blog, mapping out the user journey successfully can win you customer loyalty. Considering the journey of your users carefully not only makes the web experience more pleasant for them, but will help you achieve your goals – regardless of what these goals may be. More leads, more impact or a more worthwhile way to share your information, all of these can be accomplished by considering the user flow and user journey.