Why User Flow Matters to Web Design

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Is visiting your website a fun experience or not? User flow is the steps a visitor takes to get from Point A to Point B. Flows vary from site to site, depending on the goal of the website. The clearer it is to the user where to go next, the smoother the flow of the design.

One interesting thing you might not be aware of is that there are different levels of potential journeys on your site. The top path is those elements that run across the upper portion of your navigation. So, a parenting website might have an upper path flow of Home –> Babies –> About. However, there are layers below the top layer, as well. Under Babies, you might have Sleep, Eating and Potty Training. Most sites have several layers.

You might think elements in the top path would be popular, but one study found the most popular choice was the second item in the third column of a drop-down menu. About 70% of their visitors went directly to that spot. Where users go first varies by website and categories, but knowing which one your visitors prefer can help you highlight popular areas of your site and rearrange your hierarchy accordingly.

There are many reasons why spending so much time on user flow is beneficial to your website.

1. Understand User Preferences

Start with multivariate testing. Rather than conducting tests on one tiny change at a time, you can test multiple elements at once and see which user flow design works best for your website. Easily identify how different features on your site work together. Save time so you can improve your user flow almost immediately. You can even experiment with different placement on the page for your paths and see which one user respond best to. The better you understand your targets, the more intuitive your user flow will be. 

2. Set Achievable Goals

User flow helps you understand how people move through your website. If your goal is to convert them from browsers into subscribers, then you want each motion to lead them toward signing up for a list. Studying user flow charts ensures they wind up on a signup page no matter where they head from the home page. Set goals and then back them up with user research so you aren’t just guessing the path people might take.

3. Simplify Your Design

User flow also allows you to simplify the overall design of a page. The more clear you make it where users should go and what they should do, the better the overall user experience (UX). Focusing on the way people move through your site gets rid of a lot of the clutter most websites collect over time. No longer do you have to make a road to every single element on your site. You only need to create a path to your goal for the site. Anything else can go further down the list of navigational choices. 

4. Break Down Large Buyer Journeys

If you sell complex products or need to share a lot of information before converting consumers, you may have a lengthy buyer journey. User flows allow you to create multiple paths to the same end goal and break down a larger block into small steps. Once you understand the behavior of your typical audience member, it’s much easier to plan out the course they might take through your site. Make educated guesses about which links they’ll choose as they move through your site and then point them in that direction with arrows, highlights and other features that point the way.

5. Focus on User Experience

Use wireflows (similar to wireframes) early in the design process allows you to think through the user experience. How easy is it to move to the next point in the journey? Is the path clear for the user? Are the buttons and links big enough for a mobile device? Stop along each point in the workflow and figure out how easy it is for your site visitor to navigate. Get input from your client on the design, because they know their customers best. Study competitor sites to see what type of user flow they utilize. With a wireflow layout, changes are easy to make before you get into the design portion of the process.

6. Present the Right Info 

Delivering the right information at the perfect time helps create a better experience for site visitors. If you don’t provide the details the consumer needs at the moment they want it; you risk losing them. Think through the right moment to ask to close the sell or signup. Make sure you list out your unique value proposition (UVP) in each step of the path. Use proof, testimonials and facts. Keep calls to action (CTAs) clear and move the user through your site smoothly, avoiding friction whenever possible. 

Design from User Perspective

User flows essentially help you design from the mindset of the consumer. A good buyer path lets you meet their needs each step of the journey and lowers your bounce rate. With a bit of practice and analysis of your website, you’ll find your conversions increase, and you wind up with highly qualified leads who are truly interested in what you have to offer. User flow isn’t easily mastered overnight, but with persistence, you’ll improve the way people click through your sites and create designs with good UX.

Lexie Lu

Lexie is a digital nomad and UX designer. If she's not traveling to various parts of the country, you can find her at the local flea markets or hiking with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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