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User Flow in UX Design: How to Build a User Flow for a SaaS MVP

We know how important it is to prioritize user experience right from the start when designing SaaS MVPs. After all, SaaS UX can make or break the probability of a user purchasing or signing up.

A critical component of the overall UX design process is building user flows. User flows allow designers to visualize the user journey and gain a comprehensive view of how the user will interact with the product, and as a result, identify areas for improvement. With this knowledge in hand, we can optimize the user experience and enhance ROI by effectively retaining users.In this article, we'll take a deep dive into exploring the concept of user flows and their vital role in MVP UX design. We'll also give a peek into how we approach user flow design for the SaaS applications we create for our clients. So, get ready to delve into how UX flows can revolutionize your UX design process!Prioritizing Users’ Needs"Why can't you build everything? And why does prioritization matter?"Often, founders, rightfully so, have a bag filled with ideas and would like to see most of them realized. We'd love to get them there, but often the budgets are limited. And hence, prioritization is key.Another advantage of prioritization is that you don't get ahead of the market. Entrepreneurship is a dance between you and the market. If you get ahead, it resists you. If you lag behind, it leaves you behind.Additionally, this is also a dance between you and the user base. Every little change you introduce will impact and change the users' behaviors. And often these changes surface with a delay. Meaning, you launch a new feature to address a user's pain point or goal, and often users' expectations evolve after using the feature. For example, think about the world of social media marketing before and after Instagram stories.Lastly, when you introduce two features at the same time, you can't accurately assess the impact of each feature on the overall evolved consumer behavior.On the first day of our 3-week UX design sprint, we hold a workshop with clients to do just that: prioritization of the users' needs.

What’s a UX Flow?

If we want to prioritize users' needs and build an excellent SaaS UX, creating UX flows is an excellent way to go about it. User flow is a visual representation of the user actions. It visualizes the path or sequence of steps a user takes when interacting with the user interface of a product or service. User flow diagrams are often used to illustrate the flow of screens, pages, or interactions that users come across during their experience. Analyzing user flow data from user testing helps identify bottlenecks, areas for improvement, and opportunities to enhance the user journey.User flows are a great tool for UX designers to gather insights and analyze user behavior. By examining the flow diagrams and identifying patterns, designers can make informed decisions to improve the overall UX.To create a user flow, designers need to dive deep into user needs and goals. By mapping out the steps a user needs to take, designers can streamline the interaction process and guide users towards their desired outcomes. This user-centric approach ensures that the design meets the needs of the target audience, leading to a better user experience.

Different Types of User Flow Charts

There are three types of flowcharts: task flow, wire flow, and user flow. Each of these flowcharts provides a visual path that a user takes while interacting with a website or application, offering valuable insights.When designing a user flow, the choice of flowchart depends on your specific purpose. Understanding the unique characteristics and advantages of each flow type will help you determine which one is best suited for your needs.

Task Flow

Task flow focuses on the specific steps and interactions users follow to complete a task on a website or app. The idea is to streamline their actions and decisions, ensuring they have a clear and efficient path towards accomplishing a task.By visualizing the task flow, you can identify areas where the user experience could be improved or where issues might arise.

Wire Flow

Wire flow combines the structural aspects of a wireframe with the flow elements of a user flow diagram. Essentially, it uses wireframes or low-fidelity designs to illustrate the sequence of screens and interactions that users encounter.It provides a visual representation of how users navigate through the interface, enabling you to evaluate the flow and transitions between different screens.

User Flow

User flow encompasses the big picture. It covers the entire journey that users take while exploring a website or app. From their initial entry to the final goal or conversion, every step is considered. User flow goes beyond specific tasks and actions, taking into account decision points, potential branches, and alternative paths that users may encounter.This understanding helps designers create a seamless and intuitive experience that aligns with user expectations.

Choosing the Right UX Flow

The choice of flow depends on your purpose and how the insight aligns with it. If you want to focus on optimizing a specific task, task flow is the way to go. For visualizing the sequence of screens and interactions, wire flow provides a useful perspective.

The Importance of Effective User Flow in UX Design Process

By focusing on user flow, designers can optimize the user journey, anticipate user needs, and minimize unnecessary steps or interactions. This attention to detail helps create a more efficient and intuitive SaaS UX, ultimately building the users' trust and loyalty towards the service.Moreover, user flow is a great tool for collaboration within the design team. It provides a shared understanding of the user's path, enabling designers, developers, and stakeholders to align their efforts and work towards a common goal.

How to Create a User Flow: Our Approach to Flow Designs for SaaS MVPs

Here's our process to focus on features and arrive at an excellent MVP UX,

Step 1: Creating User Personas

User personas are fictional characters created to represent many users who often share the same characteristics. For example, if you want to develop a SaaS application for small medium enterprises (SMEs) to help them handle their bookings and facilitate faster customer communication, your product will deal with different personas. Let's consider two personas:

  1. Ahmad - The Internet SavvyHe is a tech-savvy individual who already uses various software. He juggles multiple screens simultaneously, actively meets clients online and offline, and frequently travels by plane. He seeks a seamless experience that adapts to whichever device he is using at any given time.
  2. Sally - The Vintage LoverShe owns a hair salon and is passionate about making people look beautiful. She primarily uses her laptop for watching Netflix and isn't proficient with applications. Additionally, she is often busy serving clients and finds limited time to sit behind a computer.

Although these personas are both looking for a booking application, they operate in different contexts and have contrasting characteristics. This presents a challenge when your application needs to cater to opposing preferences.We utilize empathy mapping, as shown in the image below, as an alternative to the common user persona template. If you would like to learn more about empathy mapping, you can review our post on Instagram.

Empathy mapping template
Empathy mapping template

For each targeted persona, we'd like to know who they are in general and gather information about:

  1. Their demographics
  2. Their personal life and professional background

Next, we'd like to dive into specific details about how they currently deal with the challenge at hand. Specifically, when facing the challenge, we consider:

  1. What do they think and feel?
  2. What do they see?
  3. What do they hear?
  4. What do they say and do?
  5. How do they characterize their frustrations?
  6. How do they envision their experience changing if there was a better solution in place?

To answer these questions with informed data, it's important to conduct user research.

Step 2: Prioritizing Personas

The number of personas for each MVP is not set in stone. It depends on your industry, market, and product offering. For one product, we identified six user personas, while for another, we only considered two.A good rule of thumb is that a product should not solely cater to one persona. Multiple types of user personas should be involved when creating a UX flow. It's possible to develop the MVP around the needs of a specific persona, but relying solely on one persona oversimplifies reality and does a disservice to your product.We use a chart, as shown below, to prioritize personas. We determine which persona, if their needs were addressed in the product, would generate the most revenue and scale the business further.

Persona Prioritization Chart
Persona prioritization chart

The target areas, depicted as white areas on the chart, indicate the potential for generating the most revenue. However, it's important to note that relying solely on this chart for persona ranking doesn't mean we only focus on low implementation and high ROI cases.Sometimes, we have to prioritize initiatives that require more implementation efforts, as they play a crucial role in the survival of the business.

Step 3: Create Use Cases

Use cases are expressed in a simple sentence structure:"As a [persona], I [want to], [so that]."For example, use cases might look like this:

  • "As Sally, I want the appointments to be booked automatically, so I can focus on cutting hair, which I love."
  • "As Ahmad, I want a seamless solution to book clients' meetings, so I can confidently expand the business reach in different countries."
  • "As a manager, I want to be able to understand my colleagues' progress, so I can better report our successes and failures."

Expressing use cases as user stories allows us to focus on experiences rather than features. Some founders, especially those with a technical background, tend to focus solely on building features without relating them to improving the user experience. At this phase, we break down the use cases per chosen persona.

Use cases Per Persona

Use cases per persona

Step 4: Prioritize Use Cases

We repeat the prioritization process for the use cases, focusing on the personas. At this phase, we identify the most promising use cases to prioritize and set aside the rest for future versions of the application.

 Priotrization of use cases
Prioritization of use cases

Step 5: Create User Flow for Each Prioritized Use Case

After finalizing the list of prioritized use cases, we proceed to break down the user flows for each one. A user flow is an excellent method to understand the entire dynamic between users and the application without diving into the details required for wireframing.A user flow provides insights into the necessary pages, actions, logics, backend work, and external assets (third-party apps) involved. Here are the elements of a user flow:

The elements of a user flow
The elements of a user flow

Here's an example of a user flow for adding a new sale item. As you can see, each user flow starts with a user and has a clear beginning and end. Throughout the flow, you can determine the assets needed for the user's journey to be complete.

An example of a user flow
An example of a user flow

Once all the user flows needed for the MVP are finalized, we proceed to create wireframes for each user flow.ConclusionPrioritizing user experience right from the start is a crucial part of a successful product design, including when designing MVPs for SaaS. This is where UX flows come in. User flows help UX designers gain a comprehensive view of the user's interactions and steps with the product, from the beginning to completing a task. This UX analysis enables designers to identify areas of improvement in order to build a great user experience when building MVP UX.By creating well-researched and comprehensive user flows, you'll be well on your way on putting together a solid foundation for an excellent and intuitive experience for your SaaS users.Note: This article was originally published on July 2021 and updated on June 2023 reflect the current status of the market.