Whether you are a new SaaS founder or a UX designer learning about SaaS design you will have come across the term “user flow” – a map of the user-facing pages and internal tasks that show what your software does.
The effectiveness of your user flow planning is important stuff because it carries the fine detail that makes or breaks a product’s usability. Problems here don’t just mean potential delays with your product release; they can also impact budgets and increase churn rates.
In this blog post, we will run through nine steps to streamline and strengthen your planning process so you can deliver a great app on time and within budget.
Why user flow is important in your SaaS design
Not so long ago, we wrote a blog post called “Why you need a user flow when you are designing SaaS products”. In that post, we discussed why user flow planning is important and concluded that:
- user flows are a great communication tool between the designer and the client
- they quickly and visually show you what’s working and what’s not working in a user’s journey
- they also allow you to focus on app usability as you design
- you can use them as a starting point for future features, and app updates
- they improve project efficiency at the top level and finer detail decision-making stages
- and finally, user flows make personalising the user journey a much easier process.
In that post, we also looked at how to design your user flow journey and some of our favourite tools. Go ahead and read that before we show you how to be more efficient in your planning.
Ok, let’s dive into how to streamline your user flow planning process.
9 easy steps to making your user flow planning more effective
Before you wireframe any SaaS product, you need to understand what pages to create and where they fall within the app. This is where a strong user flow diagram comes into play.
When we start a user flow plan for a client, we ensure that our process is water-tight, always using our in-house template for the planning process.
Here are the points we considered when drafting that template.
1. Document your objectives before you start
Whether you are a designer switching between projects or you are a SaaS owner getting to grips with your design, understanding what your key objectives are is crucial.
Ask yourself these critical questions (even if they feel obvious)
- what’s the app’s purpose
- what tasks do your users need to complete
- how do they complete these tasks
- what questions do you need to answer for users
Note this down so that you can refer to it throughout the design process.
2. Understand your users and create personas
Ultimately, you will need to test your user flow against user behaviours and software purposes. If you have a document that details your users and how they behave, you can use this to ideate, design and test your user flow more effectively.
3. Understand which user tasks are important
Before you start getting creative with all the features and tasks you can offer your user, it’s important to document your most important tasks – this is what your users came to your app for.
You may have a small handful of these important tasks. In this instance, ensure you know their hierarchy or priority order so you can ensure the most important appears in the right places throughout your design.
4. Understand how different entry points, journeys, and decision points may affect task completion
The more complex the software, the more ways your user will start their task journey. Equally more complex software will present more decision points for your user. Understanding how your user will want to navigate your app will help you define the key points of your user flow diagram much more quickly.
For us, this creates a bare-bones structure on which we build out all other task journeys.
5. Always look for friction points
Every time you iterate or review your user flow diagram, it is an opportunity to stand back, take in the bigger picture and remove friction points. Making this action clear in the planning process means you and your design team get into the habit of spotting potential problems before they get embedded into your wireframe stage.
6. Create pre-populated design elements for consistency
Part of what makes our user flow planning more effective is knowing that we can get started quickly because we have a design template set up and ready to go. Specific elements are pre-populated within that design system to speed up the user-facing screen and internal task signal creation.
You can do exactly the same thing.
Using specific shapes and colour combinations to denote functions avoids flow confusion and streamlines production. It is also visually compelling, making an overview with your team or clients much more productive.
7. Remember to plan when and where to guide and prompt your users
If you have been following along, you will have your important tasks noted down at this point. Just as these are important to map out, so too are your prompts and guides because sometimes users will need a little help to get through a task.
We like to make sure that our planning process covers the basic prompts:
- Onboarding support
- In-app task support
- Resources for further support
- Help desk prompts
- Relevant calls to action
For every project we work on, planning these early on provides finer detail at an earlier stage. It can also help with the wireframe process because we can clearly identify where we need client involvement in the guide or resource information.
8. Use the same trusted design system for every job
We all have our preferred tools when working on things. When it comes to user flow planning, it pays to know your preferred design system for the job. It could be Figma; if so, make sure your template and elements are stored there so you can get to work seamlessly.
9. Always look to reduce the number of steps to get from A to B
If you’ve been working in UX for a while, as we have, you’ve become accustomed to focusing on simplifying user steps to create intuitive and engaging experiences. You can take the same approach with your user flow planning.
A continuous improvement methodology (aka the Kaizen method) will help you streamline your planning stage. Allowing you to throw your UX designers into the creation phase much more quickly because they don’t need to figure out how to set up their flow build.
Need help creating a user flow that engages your software users? Don’t be shy; drop your project details in our planner below, and let us work our magic!