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Kristina Margulets

Kristina Margulets
Content Writer at UXPressia

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 a 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 user’s 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
The map is created in UXPressia's Customer Journey Map online tool

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 the 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 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 a user journey, a 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 journey and user flow
Source: nngroup.com

User journey vs. user flow: similarities

Now you know the difference between a user journey and user flow. But they have similarities too. Here is what they 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.

User journey vs. user flow: 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 shows 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 flows concentrate on the technicalities;
  • Purpose. A 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 out user flows and journeys

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 our platform was initially created for. Use the 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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