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How to create a user flow map for your website & app

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How to create a user flow map for your website & app



In the highly competitive world of rock climbing, some athletes perform an extreme version of ascent: a climber performs a flash climb when they complete a route on their first attempt. Climbers value world record flash climbs because each climber only gets one attempt to set a record.

As difficult as flash climbs are, they aren’t extreme enough for some climbers. In a flash ascent, climbers can study the route, receive advice, and formulate plans. For climbers not satisfied with that level of challenge, onsight climbs are performed by climbers who not only have never completed the ascent before but haven’t even seen the route.

Extreme athletes seek out unique challenges, taking pride in accomplishing things that most people cannot. While the risk of failure adds unique value to sports, it adds unnecessary difficulty to business processes. In the business world, you don’t define success by creating unique challenges but by creating unique solutions to minimize challenges. One of those solutions is a user flow map—a method of diagramming the pathways users take through your interface.

A good user flow map helps businesses understand their users’ journeys, identify pain points, and plan for contingencies. This guide explains user flows, how to create user flow maps, and some best practices for designing your diagrams.

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Key takeaways:

  • User journey describes the user’s entire experience with your company, while user flow describes the steps they follow using your interface.
  • Some common shapes like ovals, rectangles, diamonds, and parallelograms have commonly understood uses in flow charts.
  • Follow best practices and use the experts at Optimizely to level up your digital experience.

 

User flow vs. user journey

While user flow and user journey have similar names and overlap in significant ways, you should be aware of important differences between these concepts.

The user journey encompasses every aspect of the user’s experience with your company. The user journey begins when a user first becomes aware of your business (or becomes aware of a need you can solve) and ends with their last interaction with your company. That means that while you can’t know exactly when a user journey begins or ends, you can use customer relationship management software to identify where a user is on their journey and how to move them to the next step.

The user flow overlaps with the user journey, but it specifically describes the pathway users follow on your website or application. For example, a user flow may begin when a user visits your website for the first time and end with a purchase. Those activities are a part of the larger user journey, but the user flow is more interested in the experience users have with your website or app.

The user journey is interested in the user’s emotions, tangible and intangible interactions, ongoing communication, relationship building, etc.—the “people” side of the process; while the user flow is interested in the “technology” side of the process—the user’s clicks, page visits and subscriptions. The user flow and user journey describe different elements of the same relationship between your business and your users.

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User flow diagraming

Your users won’t ever see your user flow map, but you and your team will refer to it throughout the life of your website or app, so while it doesn’t have to be the prettiest document, it should still be clear and user-friendly.

While the rules of user flow diagraming aren’t set in stone, you should know some best practices and generally understand flowchart creation syntax.

  • Ovals represent the start and end point of your flow chart. Depending on your process, your user flow might have more than one start point and more than one endpoint.
  • Squares or rectangles represent individual pages or steps. In general, flow charts, squares and rectangles can be any step of a process, but in web and app design, squares and rectangles represent individual pages in the user interface.
  • Diamonds represent decisions that users must make. For example, when a user first attempts to log in to your platform, your website may prompt them to connect a Google or Facebook account, or they may log in with an email or continue as a guest. Depending on their choice, their journey through your website or app may diverge as you deliver a different experience based on their choices.
  • Parallelograms represent input required by the user. For example, you may require them to input a serial number to activate their product or provide a shipping address to receive a service.
  • Arrows indicate the direction of the flow. Your flow may include loops, crossroads, and diverging and converging pathways, so indicating the sequence of elements is essential for your user flow map to be readable. 

Generally, those four shapes, along with arrows, are the foundational building blocks of your user flow map, but you can always use additional shapes, colors or other design elements to communicate any information you believe is relevant. Remember that the purpose of a user flow map isn’t just to follow the rules or check a box but to communicate information about the user flow. The example below shows additional shapes that other companies have used when creating flow charts.

1675763904 430 How to create a user flow map for your website

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User flow design principles

As with any form of communication, user flow maps lose some value when they omit relevant information and include too much irrelevant information. Designing a successful user flow map includes balancing several considerations to maximize the usefulness of your diagram.

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1. Establish a level of detail

If your user flow maps are too detailed, they become convoluted and difficult to read. If they aren’t detailed enough, they aren’t useful. Establishing the correct level of granularity is an important first step in designing a user flow map.

When it comes to designing diagrams, the golden principle is to consider the needs of your users. What kind of questions will they be trying to answer with your chart? What level of experience will they have? What will they be using this chart to do? Answering those questions will help you define the right level of detail for your user flow map.

2. Consider alternatives

One of the reasons user flow maps are useful is because they allow designers to visually parse the journey users go on as they traverse your website or app. Do your best to consider every alternative when designing your user flow map.

For example, what will you do if users add items to their cart but leave without checking out? What will you do if a user provides a billing address but not a shipping address? What if a user requests a free trial but then buys the full version? Your user flow map will help you identify these crossroads and plan for contingencies.

3. Use the right digital experience platform

Your users’ digital experience matters. Optimizely is a powerful digital experience platform with expert tools to help with automation, A/B testing, content management, and much more.

A user flow map only describes your customers’ journey as they interact with your digital interface. While a user map can help identify pain points and visually inspire solutions, the key to improving your customer’s experience is to improve the content of your website or app.

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If you’re ready to take your digital experiences to the next level, get started today to set up a meeting with an Optimizely representative today.


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Optimizing Zoom’s digital experience for explosive growth

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Optimizing Zoom's digital experience for explosive growth

In February 2020, Zoom had millions of weekly visitors to their site, all of whom were coming to Zoom.us to do a handful of activities. Flashforward a month later to March, and Zoom’s traffic spiked to tens of millions of visitors every week. Those visitors arrived to not only use Zoom for a couple of work calls per week, but to entirely reinvent how they interacted with colleagues, partners, teachers, students, and even friends and family.   

Zoom used this opportunity to transform its users’ experience into incredible growth and customer happiness across geographies and verticals. How did they do it?  

At Opticon ’23, Alex London, Head of Digital Zoom and Jay Dettling, CEO of Hero Digital, joined Alex Atzberger, CEO, Optimizely to share how Zoom re-built their entire digital ecosystem. 

Keep reading to learn how Zoom partnered with Hero Digital and Optimizely to transform its customer experience and drive stellar results including these early wins: 

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  • Page load improved by 60% 
  • Speed to market improved by 50% 
  • Conversion improvement of 10% 
  • Publishing time from days to minutes (reduced by about half) 

The Year the World “Hopped on a Zoom Call” — & What Came Next

In March 2020, Zoom watched as web traffic, sign-ups, users and attendees grew from millions to hundreds of millions virtually overnight. Not only did its customer base and user group skyrocket, but its core use cases did, too: online meeting rooms were now used to host weddings, game nights, and math classes. At the same time, corporate brainstorms, sales calls, and even government processes requiring the highest security clearances moved to  Zoom to continue working as normally as possible. 

To meet the incredible demand for new use cases and services, the Zoom team had to ideate, test, and ship new products and features on a timeline that the internal teams refer to as “at the speed of Zoom.” Their success meant that their brand entered a hallowed hall of exclusive brands whose names made the transition from noun to verb. It was the year of: “Can we Zoom?” 

Getting there wasn’t just about building and launching products and features;  that was only half the battle. To scale and continue delivering happiness to customers, the team needed to ensure they told the story of Zoom across all customer touchpoints. 

Their goals

  1. Reimagine and rebuild the entire digital stack (including attribution models, analytics systems, acquisition, and localization) 
  2. Move from an existing agnostic, one-size-fits-all model to a global, flexible digital experience to cater to personas, geographies, and use cases 
  3. Improve their speed to market to continue moving “at the speed of Zoom” 

The Tactical Challenges of Reimagining Zoom’s Digital Stack 

Zoom’s overarching goal was to put the story at every single touchpoint of the customer journey. Given the dramatic change in their business, building a new site for Zoom would be incredibly complicated. Yet, if they succeeded, they’d generate demand, better enable purchases, and support its users.  

So how did they do it? Before making the leap, they looked to their strategic partners — Hero Digital and Optimizely.

 

 

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Zoom needed a new digital foundation to achieve all of its goals at scale. More importantly, their new foundation needed to untangle serious web traffic complexity.

Zoom has four primary visitor types — all arriving on Zoom’s marketing website by the millions. They include: 

  • Individuals and SMEs buying Zoom online 
  • Demo requests 
  • Product support requests 
  • Users and attendees accessing Zoom’s website as part of their workflow 

To add even more complexity, the teams needed to account for multi-lingual requirements for 20+ languages across the globe. 

“How do we build for these four levels of complexity? And how quickly can we move to tell our new platform story?” – Alex London, Head of Digital at Zoom

Before anything else, Zoom needed to build a new design system, and Hero Digital stepped in to help. Together, they built a minimum versatile component library that would scale across the website, mobile, ads, and anywhere else Zoom encountered customers. The initial minimum library featured 38 components with 29 variants and 8 page templates. 

Zoom also had to untangle the domain and subdomain issues of their own making. The past choice to build their digital foundation on ‘Zoom.us’ and create new subdomains for customers (coming in north of 10k subdomains) meant speed and ranking were complicated. Essentially, Zoom was competing with 10k+ sites that Zoom itself had created.  

Resolving this problem by choosing to unify content on a single domain, Zoom, Hero Digital, and Optimizely got to work. 

Hero Digital’s Foundation + Optimizely’s Architecture = Moving at the Speed of Zoom

By partnering with Hero Digital and Optimizely, Zoom reimagined its complete customer experience and upgraded to a best-in-class technology platform that combines AI-accelerated workflows with experiment-driven digital experiences. 

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The team deployed the Optimizely Digital Experience Platform, featuring Optimizely Content Management System, Content Management Platform, and Experimentation, as the architecture to bring their foundation to life and scale faster than they could ever imagine.

Component Library + Optimizely CMS  

One of Zoom’s goals was to move from its existing agnostic model to a global, flexible digital experience to cater to personas, geographies, and use cases. To do that, they needed a modern content management system. 

In the first phase of the build, the team focused on Zoom’s marketing site, now untangled but still over 200 pages. They established a foundation on Optimizely’s Content Management System to create a foundation with a migration plan over months. 

Even in the earliest stages, the results were huge because the CMS meant Zoom can could now push global changes in just minutes. They save hundreds of hours of work across the company by: 

  • Eliminating the devops processes, which previously took days or weeks to work through
  • Reducing publishing processes by half even with new added governance steps

 

Optimizely’s Content Marketing Platform

Improving speed to market was Zoom’s third goal. With the first two goals unlocked by their phased migration to Optimizely’s CMS, they needed to not only unblock the velocity but also the creativity and collaboration in producing new content. Zoom’s teams receive 80-100 requests a week for new content across their digital properties. 

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For Zoom, the re-build of the intake process for content requests was a key component of speeding up their processes. They built in guard rails and governance processes that when used within the CMP, reduced publishing time to minutes rather than days.

 

 

Now, with the first three goals— a reimagined digital stack, a flexible digital experience, and improved speed to market—accomplished, Zoom will focus on its next digital phase: experimentation and personalization. 

How could a digital experience platform help you navigate the next phase of your business? Learn more from the experts with access to The Forrester Wave: Digital Experience Platforms, Q4 2023 report.

 

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The Role of Enterprise Mobility Management in Modern Businesses

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The Role of Enterprise Mobility Management in Modern Businesses

In today’s fast-paced business environment, Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) has emerged as a critical facilitator for enhancing operational efficiency and competitiveness. EMM solutions streamline workflows, ensuring that enterprises can adapt to the rapidly changing digital landscape. This blog discusses the indispensable role of EMM in modern businesses, focusing on how it revolutionizes workflows and positions businesses for success.

EMM solutions act as the backbone for securely managing mobile devices, applications, and content that facilitate remote work and on-the-go access to company resources. With a robust EMM platform, businesses can ensure data protection and compliance with regulatory requirements, even in highly dynamic environments. This not only minimizes the risk of data breaches but also reinforces the company’s reputation for reliability and security.

Seamless Integration Across Devices

In today’s digital era, seamless integration across devices is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity for maintaining operational fluency within any organization. Our EMM solutions are designed to ensure that employees have secure and efficient access to the necessary resources, irrespective of the device being used. This cross-platform compatibility significantly enhances productivity by allowing for a unified user experience that supports both the agility and dynamism required in modern business operations. Leveraging cutting-edge technology, our solutions provide a cohesive ecosystem where data flows securely and effortlessly across mobile phones, tablets, and laptops, ensuring that your workforce remains connected and productive, regardless of their physical location. The adoption of our EMM solutions speaks volumes about an organization’s commitment to fostering a technologically forward and secure working environment, echoing its dedication to innovation and excellence.

Enhanced Productivity

EMM facilitates the seamless integration of mobile devices into the corporate environment, enabling employees to access corporate resources from anywhere. This flexibility significantly enhances productivity by allowing tasks to be completed outside of traditional office settings.

Unified Endpoint Management

The incorporation of Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) within EMM solutions ensures that both mobile and fixed devices can be managed from a single console, simplifying IT operations and enhancing security.

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Advanced Security Protocols

Where cyber threats loom larger than ever, our EMM solutions incorporate cutting-edge security protocols designed to shield your organization’s data from unauthorized access and breaches. By consistently updating and refining our security measures, we ensure your assets are protected by the most advanced defenses available. This commitment to security not only safeguards your information but also reinforces your company’s reputation as a secure and trustworthy enterprise.

Data Protection

EMM solutions implement robust security measures to protect sensitive corporate data across all mobile devices. This includes encryption, secure VPN connections, and the ability to remotely wipe data from lost or stolen devices, thereby mitigating potential data breaches.

Compliance Management

By enforcing security policies and ensuring compliance with regulatory standards, EMM helps businesses avoid costly fines and reputational damage associated with data breaches.

Driving Operational Efficiency

In the quest to drive operational efficiency, our solutions streamline processes, reduce redundancies, and automate routine tasks. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies, we empower businesses to optimize their workflows, resulting in significant time and cost savings. Our approach not only enhances operational agility but also positions your organization at the forefront of innovation, setting a new standard in your industry.

Automated Workflows

By automating repetitive tasks, EMM reduces manual efforts, increases accuracy, and speeds up business processes. This automation supports operational efficiency and allows employees to focus on more strategic tasks.

Real-time Communication and Collaboration

EMM enhances communication and collaboration among team members by providing tools that facilitate real-time interactions. This immediate exchange of information accelerates decision-making processes and improves project outcomes.

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Testimonials from Industry Leaders

Leaders in various industries have witnessed tangible benefits from implementing EMM solutions, including increased productivity, improved security, and enhanced operational efficiency. Testimonials from these leaders underscore the transformative impact of EMM on their businesses, solidifying its vital role in modern operational strategies.

Our commitment to innovation and excellence propels us to continually refine our EMM solutions, ensuring they remain at the cutting edge of technology. This dedication not only solidifies our standing as industry leaders but also guarantees that our clients receive the most advanced and effective operational tools available, tailored specifically to meet their unique business challenges.

Looking Ahead

The evolution of EMM solutions continues at a rapid pace, with advancements in technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT) further enhancing their capabilities. These developments promise even greater efficiencies, security measures, and competitive advantages for businesses willing to invest in the future of mobility management.

Our proactive approach to integrating emerging technologies with EMM solutions positions our clients at the forefront of their industries. By leveraging our deep technical expertise and industry insights, we empower businesses to not only adapt to but also lead in an increasingly digital world, ensuring they remain competitive and resilient amidst rapid technological shifts.

In conclusion, the role of Enterprise Mobility Management in modern businesses cannot be overstated. Its ability to revolutionize workflows, enhance security, and drive operational efficiency positions it as a foundational element of digital transformation strategies. We invite businesses to explore the potential of EMM solutions and partner with us to achieve unprecedented levels of success and innovation in the digital era. Together, we can redefine the boundaries of what is possible in business operations and set new benchmarks for excellence in the industry.

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Lessons From Air Canada’s Chatbot Fail

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Lessons From Air Canada’s Chatbot Fail

Air Canada tried to throw its chatbot under the AI bus.

It didn’t work.

A Canadian court recently ruled Air Canada must compensate a customer who bought a full-price ticket after receiving inaccurate information from the airline’s chatbot.

Air Canada had argued its chatbot made up the answer, so it shouldn’t be liable. As Pepper Brooks from the movie Dodgeball might say, “That’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em.” 

But what does that chatbot mistake mean for you as your brands add these conversational tools to their websites? What does it mean for the future of search and the impact on you when consumers use tools like Google’s Gemini and OpenAI’s ChatGPT to research your brand?

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AI disrupts Air Canada

AI seems like the only topic of conversation these days. Clients expect their agencies to use it as long as they accompany that use with a big discount on their services. “It’s so easy,” they say. “You must be so happy.”

Boards at startup companies pressure their management teams about it. “Where are we on an AI strategy,” they ask. “It’s so easy. Everybody is doing it.” Even Hollywood artists are hedging their bets by looking at the newest generative AI developments and saying, “Hmmm … Do we really want to invest more in humans?  

Let’s all take a breath. Humans are not going anywhere. Let me be super clear, “AI is NOT a strategy. It’s an innovation looking for a strategy.” Last week’s Air Canada decision may be the first real-world distinction of that.

The story starts with a man asking Air Canada’s chatbot if he could get a retroactive refund for a bereavement fare as long as he provided the proper paperwork. The chatbot encouraged him to book his flight to his grandmother’s funeral and then request a refund for the difference between the full-price and bereavement fair within 90 days. The passenger did what the chatbot suggested.

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Air Canada refused to give a refund, citing its policy that explicitly states it will not provide refunds for travel after the flight is booked.

When the passenger sued, Air Canada’s refusal to pay got more interesting. It argued it should not be responsible because the chatbot was a “separate legal entity” and, therefore, Air Canada shouldn’t be responsible for its actions.

I remember a similar defense in childhood: “I’m not responsible. My friends made me do it.” To which my mom would respond, “Well, if they told you to jump off a bridge, would you?”

My favorite part of the case was when a member of the tribunal said what my mom would have said, “Air Canada does not explain why it believes …. why its webpage titled ‘bereavement travel’ was inherently more trustworthy than its chatbot.”

The BIG mistake in human thinking about AI

That is the interesting thing as you deal with this AI challenge of the moment. Companies mistake AI as a strategy to deploy rather than an innovation to a strategy that should be deployed. AI is not the answer for your content strategy. AI is simply a way to help an existing strategy be better.

Generative AI is only as good as the content — the data and the training — fed to it.  Generative AI is a fantastic recognizer of patterns and understanding of the probable next word choice. But it’s not doing any critical thinking. It cannot discern what is real and what is fiction.

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Think for a moment about your website as a learning model, a brain of sorts. How well could it accurately answer questions about the current state of your company? Think about all the help documents, manuals, and educational and training content. If you put all of that — and only that — into an artificial brain, only then could you trust the answers.

Your chatbot likely would deliver some great results and some bad answers. Air Canada’s case involved a minuscule challenge. But imagine when it’s not a small mistake. And what about the impact of unintended content? Imagine if the AI tool picked up that stray folder in your customer help repository — the one with all the snarky answers and idiotic responses? Or what if it finds the archive that details everything wrong with your product or safety? AI might not know you don’t want it to use that content.

ChatGPT, Gemini, and others present brand challenges, too

Publicly available generative AI solutions may create the biggest challenges.

I tested the problematic potential. I asked ChatGPT to give me the pricing for two of the best-known CRM systems. (I’ll let you guess which two.) I asked it to compare the pricing and features of the two similar packages and tell me which one might be more appropriate.

First, it told me it couldn’t provide pricing for either of them but included the pricing page for each in a footnote. I pressed the citation and asked it to compare the two named packages. For one of them, it proceeded to give me a price 30% too high, failing to note it was now discounted. And it still couldn’t provide the price for the other, saying the company did not disclose pricing but again footnoted the pricing page where the cost is clearly shown.

In another test, I asked ChatGPT, “What’s so great about the digital asset management (DAM) solution from [name of tech company]?” I know this company doesn’t offer a DAM system, but ChatGPT didn’t.

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It returned with an answer explaining this company’s DAM solution was a wonderful, single source of truth for digital assets and a great system. It didn’t tell me it paraphrased the answer from content on the company’s webpage that highlighted its ability to integrate into a third-party provider’s DAM system.

Now, these differences are small. I get it. I also should be clear that I got good answers for some of my harder questions in my brief testing. But that’s what’s so insidious. If users expected answers that were always a little wrong, they would check their veracity. But when the answers seem right and impressive, even though they are completely wrong or unintentionally accurate, users trust the whole system.

That’s the lesson from Air Canada and the subsequent challenges coming down the road.

AI is a tool, not a strategy

Remember, AI is not your content strategy. You still need to audit it. Just as you’ve done for over 20 years, you must ensure the entirety of your digital properties reflect the current values, integrity, accuracy, and trust you want to instill.

AI will not do this for you. It cannot know the value of those things unless you give it the value of those things. Think of AI as a way to innovate your human-centered content strategy. It can express your human story in different and possibly faster ways to all your stakeholders.

But only you can know if it’s your story. You have to create it, value it, and manage it, and then perhaps AI can help you tell it well. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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