It’s not uncommon for designers to put the cart before the horse. What I’m referring to is leaping right into the design stage before considering the user experience and ultimately the desired outcome. Please don’t fault us, we’re just big nerds who get easily excited by design, trust me our hearts are in the right place. However, I recently read a post on the Smashing Magazine blog titled “Stop Designing Pages and Start Designing Flows” by Morgan Brown, and it reminded me of the value of stepping back and looking at big picture before jumping straight to the pretty stuff.
In a nutshell the article talks about designing user flows rather than designing page-by-page. A user flow is the path or funnel a user takes from the initial acquisition to a point of conversion. A conversion may be signing up for a newsletter, downloading an e-book, or making a purchase. To start designing user flows it’s important to define both the user and business objectives. From there you can start building flows in order to reach both parties goals.
The idea of designing your site based on user flows may not seem revolutionary; in fact a lot of us already do this to some degree or another. What I did find interesting about the article was the concept of stacking flows to create a more cohesive user experience life cycle. Stacking funnels helps you to think beyond the initial conversion and design for the ultimate conversion (i.e. a purchase). Essentially all this talk about stacking flows is basically the same as taking your nurture sequence and stacking it on top of the initial conversion funnel, whether that is an email sign up or joining a free webinar. A nurture sequence is what happens after the initial customer acquisition. It is the path you take the user on to nurture them back on to your website and ultimately to your shopping cart.
Combining these two elements together gives you a crystal clear blueprint that you can work backwards from and design a more effective and enjoyable experience for your user.