In our “How to Design an App” series, we’ll be going step-by-step through the design process for mobile apps, with tips on how to make apps more efficiently along the way.
Once you’ve scoped out your idea, the next step is to get the paper and pens out and start to think about “user flow” – and how people will actually be using your app.
User flow is the path that you think a user might take through your app when they’re performing a specific task, like changing the settings. These paths could be linear, like reading the pages of a book; or they could be more complex, going back and forth…and then back again. By trying to understand user flow, you can design your apps to fit in with the way your users would probably approach it, which is a lot easier for them.
What do your users want?
All you need is a couple of pieces of paper and a pen. Make a list of the most common things your users want to do with your app. Using the Twitter iPhone app as an example, it’s safe to say that users have these main goals (among others):
- Read their Newsfeed
- Write a Tweet
When you open the Twitter app, it answers the first goal straight away with the newsfeed, right there. In the titlebar at the top, there’s a button with a quill icon that opens up a text-editor to write a new tweet. So, in just one tap after firing up the app (and however many taps it takes to write your 140 characters, or less), users can achieve their top 2 goals.
The point here is to provide the user with the smallest path to finish what they want to do. If we draw the second “tweeting” task as a user flow, it might look like this:
But what if your user wants to mention someone? Well, Twitter provides a ‘Mention’ button to make name-dropping a little easier, so the flow would be more like this:
Twitter also has “Hashtag” and “Photo” buttons that aren’t vital for the app to work, but make it a little easier to enrich your tweets by bringing up menus, which is something to think about when designing user flow.
Thinking about your app, write out the major tasks users want to complete, then sketch out a path for each one. As you go, you might think up other tasks or alternative ways to get to the goal – just add them to the list and draw another path. Try and take out any unnecessary steps, and after a little while, you’ll have a much stronger idea of how users might want your app to work, which will make the rest of the design process a whole lot easier.
Next, we’ll be talking about Wireframes; rough sketches of your app’s interface. But for now, share your comments about your User Flow process, or share your sketches via twitter @AppFurnace