User flow diagrams are used primarily by product and UX designers to visualize the flow of a user as they navigate through an interface with a purpose of finishing a task in the most intuitive way possible.
It is often deployed to help the designer understand and visualize the customer experience and user needs. The user flow diagram is an iterative tool that can be a helpful asset at any part of the design process.
To understand what a user flow diagram is together with its goals and objectives, we first need to know what a user flow is and how it is relevant to UX.
Table of contents
What is a user flow?
A user flow is a visual (digital) representation of the steps a user takes navigating through a website or application that primarily shows what happens at each step along the way. A typical user flow often begins with the consumer’s point of entry on the product, like an onboarding screen or homepage, and ends with a desired outcome or action, which may include purchasing a product or making a transaction.
Visualizing this process allows UX designers to evaluate and spot opportunities to improve the user experience of the product.
Learn more about: the Fundamentals of User Flow.
What is a user flow diagram?
A user flow diagram is a step-by-step sequence that outlines the logical path a user takes to start and finish a task or complete a goal throughout a product. It helps to identify entry points for the user, pages for navigation and interaction to complete tasks and activities.
It focuses on the user flow within a digital product and its experience. User flow diagrams are a useful tool for depicting potential user actions, creating relationships between the user and system functionality and making more user-centered design decisions.
A user flow diagram serves as a worthy artifact for design teams to identify user tasks, navigation and interaction flow which can be used to test among real users and get feedback for further iteration and to support design decisions when presenting to stakeholders.
A user flow diagram designed by NN/group.
User flow diagrams may take different forms depending on the stage of the design process which you are in. When user needs, goals and experience are understood after conducting research, the user flow diagram is visualized using wireframes known as flowcharts.
These flowcharts are represented with nodes which show steps and basic shapes which represent tasks and actions which the user would take. All of the shapes have meanings and it is important to know what they are and how to use them.
5 types of symbols in user flow diagrams
The symbols used in user flow diagrams all have meanings and therefore are used to communicate actions between the user, and the design team.
There are five types of symbols used in user flowcharts and they include:
Start/End (Oval) ○
The oval symbolizes the start or the end in a flowchart.
Process (Rectangle) ▭
The rectangle symbolizes steps in the process. This is your go-to symbol in any flowchart and by far the most commonly used.
Input/Output (Parallelogram) ▱
The parallelogram symbolizes input/output of external data.
Decision (Diamond) ⬦
The diamond symbolizes and indicates a choice or decision point for the user. This will typically split your flowchart using arrows.
Direction (Arrow) →
The arrow symbol is used to represent a flow direction.
These symbols make up the building block of a user flowchart and are used to represent tasks, decisions and actions all targeted to the user.
How to create a user flow diagram
Once you have an idea about what your user flow should look like you can start designing a user flow diagram following the steps below:
- Define the user
- Map out the user’s tasks and goals
- Choose the right type of user flow diagram
- Create user flow diagram
- Test and improve user flow diagram
We went into more details on how to create a user flow diagram in our guide on user flows in UX. Use it to assist in creating your next user flow diagram.
User flow diagram example
Healthcare Messaging App for Smartwatches
The healthcare messaging app user flow diagram is a great example of a well designed flow created to empower both healthcare workers and patients alike. This user flow shows the steps users are supposed to take when using the HealthMe application on the Apple watch. It’s simple yet detailed and displays every action the users take while checking their notifications on the Apple Watch.
UX flow diagram of a healthcare secure messaging app for smart watches.
This healthcare secure messaging app is ideally designed for medical doctors and nurses. The smartwatch is a more personal device that is always on hand, whose main function therefore is to alert doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers on their activities and plans as it involves their patients.
The flow diagram clearly demonstrates the user path for both notifications and the interface of the smart watch. It identifies activities that take place daily on the smart watch and gives a clear step on how to navigate through. The flow diagram ensures that users are never lost at any path of their journey when navigating through the device.This flow proves to save time and communicate faster with other healthcare professionals as they are on the go.
The information you put in your user flow should depend on the needs and goals of your users and the complexity of your product. Make sure all information and features on your UX flow adds value to your users by testing your user flow to see how users respond, engage and navigate through your interface. Cut down on actions that are not needed and use feedback gotten from your test results to improve the experience of your product.
User flow diagram templates
The easiest way to create a user flow diagram is with the help of online tools. There are several online tools that can help you create a user flow in minutes with pre-made templates which you can edit and customize to suit your needs.
Here are some tools that have editable templates:
Creately helps you to visualize and analyze your user flows and their decision points through a product. You can Identify critical points to improve your user flow for a better user experience through its customizable user flow templates.
It has an extensive shape library for flowcharts, process maps, swimlanes that helps with collaboration amongst teams.
Venngage helps you create effective user flow charts to visualize at a glance your website structure. It smoothly leads users from their first steps to your high-priority pages by avoiding dead ends and odd journeys.
Plan a perfect UX with Venngage’s user flow diagram. It is a great tool to leverage on for mapping paths users will follow when navigating your website.
Figjam by Figma is an industry leading professional tool that can be used to create UX design user flow diagrams. You can add default shapes or draw one desired shape with a pen and pencil and add the arrow to connect them with the help of the Figjam whiteboard and collaboration tool.
From brainstorming to UX flow diagrams, workshops and sprints and everything in between, FigJam makes it easy for teams to collaborate in real time. It is a really great user flow diagram tool that allows you to use and customize premade UX flow templates and also gives you the power to create one from scratch.
Improve user centered design with user flow diagrams
Creating a user flow without prior knowledge can be a daunting experience. You have to think holistically throughout the product design with the user in mind. Designing the user flow can help interpret the quality or experience of the path a user will take. The user flow can also reveal how many steps it will take the user to complete a task, the pathways the user will take when interacting with your product or service to solve a pain point.
Designing the UX flow early on in the design process will lead to a more intuitive product that delights customers and exceeds their expectations.
Use this article as a guide when you want to design a user flow diagram that works and will remain effective. Register for your free UXtweak account and test your user flow diagram to ensure it works for your users.