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Dan Nagornov

Dan Nagornov

User Flow vs User Journey

The terms “user flow” and “user journey” are both used to describe the overall story of user interactions with a service or product. However, there is lots of confusion going on, as the difference between these two terms may not be clear right from the start.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences and similarities between ”user flow” and ”user journey” and clear out what each of them is used for.

What is a user journey

A user journey is a top-level view of how a user interacts with a product or a service. It maps out different stages and scenarios, captures key touchpoints and highlights users’ emotions as they interact with your business.

When we talk about a user or customer journey, we think of the entire path people take while interacting with your company: from the awareness stage when they realize they have a need, through all the points of interaction with your brand, up until the moment they leave you satisfied (or not).

Here is what user journeys typically look like:

Customer journey map example

You can see that user journeys focus on users’ goals and emotions they get as they move from one journey stage to another.

When using software, for example, a customer journey would cover all the stages of user interaction with the product: awareness, search, download, installation, use, support, etc. At the same time, it will display the customer emotions at each particular stage and what exactly triggered them.

What is a user flow

A user flow, on the other hand, describes the specific actions people take to accomplish their goal at a specific stage within their journey. It focuses on the technical aspect of user interactions with a product or service.

Unlike user journey, user flow would focus on the technical details of a single stage. If it’s the installation stage, then a user flow will cover all the specifics of this stage, such as the sequence of the dialog windows that will appear on the user’s screen, the information they contain and the button a user will have to click to proceed further.

User flow vs user journey

Source: nngroup.com

Similarities

Here is what user flows and journeys have in common:

  • They both are user-centered;
  • They both deal with various stages of interactions between a user and a product or service;
  • Both can help understand user behavior;
  • Both provide insights for better customer and user experience design.

Differences

The differences between them are:

  • Level of analysis. User journey provides the macro view of the interactions between user or customer with your business from start to finish, while user flow focuses on the micro level and show the specific steps users take to achieve their goal;
  • Key focus. User journeys are more concerned with the emotional state of the users, while user flow concentrates on the technicalities;
  • Purpose. User journey is a technique that helps you see the overall experience your users have across touchpoints and channels. User flow is just a zoomed in interaction of a user with a system at a given touchpoint within the bigger journey.

How to map them out

You can map out both user journeys and flows with the help of UXPressia.

It’s all clear with creating user journeys — that is what UXPressia was initially created for. Use emotion section and insert graphics and video material to visualize your customers’ feelings throughout their journey.

Now, with user flows, there are a few ways to create or visualize them in UXPressia.

  1. Use substages. Substages can visually represent the user flows within each particular stage of a user journey.

User flow in customer journey maps

  1. Use the process and channels section. This section will give you a high-level representation of the user flow at each particular stage of the journey.

Process and channels section

  1. Use text fields. You can go with the text fields and type in the entire user flow in plain text.

User flow in customer journey mapping

That way, you can have user flows within your user journey which will give you a detailed overview of all the interactions happening between users and your business.

Wrap up

Although user flow and user journey may seem to be similar deliverables, they focus on different aspects of the overall customer experience. However, it’s worth creating both when designing a product. This way you will make sure that you will deliver the best UX possible on all the levels.

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