Using Flowcharts as a User Experience Tool

If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”- Dr. Ralf Speth, Chief Executive Officer, Jaguar Land Rover

Flowcharts find utility in several realms and fields, and in the realm of User Experience it is definitely a great addition to the arsenal available in the UX space. Flowcharts as a user experience tool help to represent visually the UX process, user tasks or user flow, by skillfully using the set of standard symbols and connecting lines. Flowcharts are an effective method to gain and sustain acceptance and engagement from current and potential stakeholders and the flexibility of this visual tool allows them as well to provide inputs and suggestions, ensuring they feel more invested.

As a user experience tool, flowcharts make discussions and brainstorming speedier and simpler, enabling a better collective overview of the overall process. With all points clearly captured within the expanse of the flowchart, it becomes easier to identify potential pitfalls and flaws in the process, ensuring that these are corrected well before implementing the user experience process. A flowchart as a user experience tool enables the visualization of steps that a user would undertake to complete a particular task or achieve a goal on a company’s site or application. This information would prove extremely useful for a company to understand how users feel about your site, and would be able to ensure that the business continues to meet their needs in a more effective manner. A well-designed user experience process flowchart will ensure that your company is able to build products/services that users will simply love and use long term. The best part about creating flowcharts for user experience or any other realm is that they are easy to create and highly flexible.

Flowcharts for user experience or any other process act as catalysts for conversations and idea storming – this yields insights about the process and ensures that focus falls even on the minutest details. These visual tools help a company to keep track of the myriad issues in their business, visualize dependencies, and envisage and emulate possible user experiences. Even a basic flowchart would clearly depict the user experience landscape, the details of each step and resources required – thereby encouraging thoughts, ideas, and collaborative efforts from teams. With new ideas and collaboration, a company would ensure that their products/services are continually updated as per user preferences, enabling it to forge ahead of its competitors.

Creators of flowcharts – digital or manual – must ensure that to gain the maximum insights from user experience, they must stick to standard and best practices for creating flowchart diagrams. The design must be lucid and components easy to understand and familiar to viewers/users. There is a lot of information available on the proper use of symbols, connectors, and components that go into making a great looking and easy to follow flowchart. Experts say that a well-done flowchart – that is one with accurate design principles, help to reduce the length of the process and eliminate confusion, which in turn help to elevate user experience.

Ensure that while creating a user experience flowchart, the title must clearly represent the exact user flow. The label or title would suitably guide them through the user flow if it represents the components within the flowchart. A great part of creating a flowchart, especially digitally, is that it can be shared with several persons, who can then provide their inputs. These inputs would certainly be helpful to tweak the user experience process, making it best suited for the target audience/market. A meaningful label would instantly provide insights into the components of the flowchart.

The main purpose of a user experience flowchart should be to enable the reader to identify resources and emphasize critical user actions. The option of color coding possible within a flowchart eases this process to a large extent. Creators must read up and keep abreast with the best practices of color coding in a flowchart from the perspective of user experience. The flexibility of a flowchart diagram allows the creator/user to change the color of any of the elements at any time during the process of designing. It is also possible to save a flowchart as a template with customized elements for later use.

Creators must keep in mind that the user experience flowchart must have a consistent and uniform visual structure – this ensures that the diagram is easy to follow and is not ambiguous. This essentially means using shapes, lines, and colors in the manner they are intended to be used. These should be used in a logical and consistent manner to ensure an uncluttered and clear design. Creators can use design tools that provide rulers and grids, which make aligning elements on screen within a flowchart, a lot easier.

One of the most important things in a flowchart, and this includes the user experience flowchart design, is to ensure that everything within the process is captured on a single page. A single page flowchart is easier to understand – meaning that users and readers are able to visualize the flow of the process from beginning to end in an easy manner. If a user/reader is required to go through multiple screens it increases the possibility of being distracted and losing motivation to go through the entire process. This in turn defeats the purpose of placing information within the visually effective tool – the flowchart. Yes, it is possible that the user experience/flow might be exceptionally complex and hence require several pages within which it can be captured. In such a scenario it is advisable to use multiple pages but ensuring that the flow is simplified and more attention is given to the symbols, colors, and other components. Breaking down the process into sub flows is one way – creating a separate flow with a link for a particularly long sub-process/one that requires a lot more details, helps to keep things simple.

User experience is a complex process requiring several types of professionals who would help to create an awesome product/service. Each professional would have a role to essay in the critical realm of UX, and hence it becomes even more essential to ensure that all have the same understanding. Each person participating in the user experience process would need a different type of information in order to reach the goal assigned to them, which together with others would account for product development. The visual steps of the process and clearly laid out goals, will ensure clear communication, which in turn would mean faster and more efficient decisions surrounding user experience and product development. Ensuring that each stakeholder has the requisite information and yet each bit of information is part of a large whole and visible to each person, is the role of flowcharts. The user interface designers for example require information on user needs, preferences, and wants, while developers need information with regard to system interactions, navigation, flow, and other aspects.

The user experience flowchart is a communication tool that can be a highly effective way to illustrate a product in a manner that each person would understand the product and be able to contribute to its development. An effective user experience flowchart would be one that focuses on the ‘behavior’ of the system in response to the actions of the users, rather than just the details of visual design. Creators must ensure that they include in the design the interactions, as also the potential movement around the product of the users, and the points of entry and critical decision points.

The user experience flowchart is an effective way for a company to view a product from the perspective of the users and their expectations and needs from the product. Creating a flowchart prior to the process of product designing – this significantly reduces the risks associated with ambiguity and the resultant requirement of rework. Get your flowcharts to elevate the user experience and reap the rewards!

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