User experience (UX) design is an essential part of SaaS product design. Two key concepts in the world of UX design are user journey and user flow. Although these ideas are similar, they have important differences. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast these concepts to understand how they’re distinct from each other and why they’re both important.
What is a user journey?
User journey describes a customer’s total experience while using or engaging with a product. Typically represented by a fully illustrated map or diagram, a user journey serves as the story or narrative of how end users interact with a product. User journey maps incorporate customer pain points, emotions, and motivations.
The purpose of this tool is to derive insights directly from the actions and personalities of customers to deliver them a better product experience. A well-designed user journey yields useful feedback that can tackle customer pain points, improve product marketing, and create new opportunities. Every company’s user journey is unique to its product and customer base.
User journey example
Let’s look at a concrete example. Streaming giant Spotify used a user journey model to improve music-sharing functionality for their customers. The goal of the model was to determine where music sharing would best fit into the user experience of their customers. Spotify conducted research and surveys, using what they found to map out the emotions of their users. They were surprised to discover that most of the customers surveyed weren’t even aware of any existing sharing functionality, and were afraid of being judged by others for their song preferences.
What is a user flow?
A user flow is the visual representation of how users complete tasks using a product. These visual representations are usually flow charts (containing boxes and pointing arrows) that map out every action a user takes, such as clicking a button or entering new information. User flows show customer actions that are independent of their feelings and are a great way of understanding how customers interact with a product’s overall design.
In addition to user flows, the UX design process also has task flows and wire flows. Task flows focus on how users complete a single task from beginning to end, as opposed to their entire task journey. They are simple and linear, making them ideal for painting a picture of ideal user behavior.
Wire flows are visual representations of how users interact with screens while using an application. The term “wire flow” is a combination of the wireframe (a two-dimensional representation of a page’s interface) and flow charts. Wireflows display how screens change as users interact with the front end of an application, while also giving information on changes in the backend.
What’s the real difference?
User journeys and user flows are both represented by colorful and detailed flow charts or diagrams, but their difference lies in their purpose. User flows map out the objective actions of an end user, without any speculation as to why they make the decisions they do. They are “Point A to point B” in nature. User journeys are focused on understanding the experience of a customer and what drives them to make the decisions they make.
When do I use a user journey vs user flow?
Naturally, the next question to ask is “When do I use either of them?” Let’s answer that question in further detail.
When to use user flow
A user flow can be created at any point in the development process, even post-launch. However, it’s good practice to develop one after conducting user research. This is because an early-stage user flow will help optimize a product’s interface before unnecessary changes need to be made. A user flow should also be used to improve an existing user interface. For example, let’s say you want to understand a shortcoming of your product’s interface. Your design team should build a user flow to get to the root of the problem and make the current interface better.
When to use user journey
A user journey should be used when your team is ready to understand the customer experience and discover new or existing customer pain points. The collection of feedback from end users, including feature requests, improvements, and bugs, is what will make up most of the User Journey your team decides to create. A user journey is also often created during product reviews and used as means of explaining user experience to stakeholders without technical backgrounds.
Demystifying the user experience
Let’s quickly recap.
User journeys and user flows are integral parts of the UX design process. A user journey maps out the emotional story of how users interact with an application, detailing their pain points and motivations for using the application. A user flow, on the other hand, maps out the objective actions of an end user without seeking to understand why. A user journey is best used during product reviews and when it is time to understand or discover new customer pain points, whereas a user flow is best built early in the design process to optimize a product’s interface before any major changes become necessary.
Hopefully, we’ve helped you understand the key features and differences between user journey vs user flow. Are you looking to bring your startup to life but need the right help to do it? We’ve got you covered! Book a call with us today to get started.