By Cathy Dew
When you last hopped on your company’s employee intranet, were you able to find everything you needed when you needed it? Could you get to all the places you wanted to go in precisely the time frame you wanted to get there? Were you able to move in and out of the system with no stops or false starts, neither confused nor confounded?
If the answer is yes to all of the above, then you have been blessed with an intranet design team that understands flow.
User Flow vs. User Journey
User flow is concerned with how a specific user is able to manage a discrete task, while user journey mapping connects these flow dots to make sure the user reaches their ultimate destination.
Let it Flow, Let it Grow
Your intranet is considered to be flowing when it is providing a valuable means for collaborations and communications in a way that makes sense to your employee users.
You know that you have achieved intranet flow when access and use become so easy and seamless that your employees feel satisfied that their time on the intranet is well spent and that their talents are well valued. In fact, once a user reaches this state of flow he or she will likely want to explore more ways to leverage the intranet, which is why smart UX designers create intranets that can grow with user capabilities and changing needs.
Think of intranet flow as occurring when a vital task is successfully undertaken by a user so he or she can continue on their bigger journey. It’s like pulling into the gas station to fill up the tank so you can proceed to your destination without running out of fuel. Getting gas is a means to the end. It should be a simple in-and-out process and hardly be given a second thought. If it becomes too cumbersome — maybe the pumps don’t take credit cards or there is no premium grade and your car doesn’t take regular — it could derail the whole journey.
In the intranet context, a user task flow might look like this:
- The user logs into the intranet homepage
- From the homepage the user clicks onto the intranet document repository page
- The user enters a file name into the search box
- The user is directed to the file they are looking for
- The user checks out the file to update
- After updating the file, the user returns it to the repository page
- The system notes the date and time the user checked the file out and back in
Assuming all went well, the user was able to accomplish this task with flow, never stopping to wonder how to retrieve, work on, and then return the document. The goal of this one task was to update the document and provide a means for anyone else accessing the same document to know who had done what to it when. The fact that the user didn’t have to think twice about how to get in and out of the system, but instead could focus on the singular task of assuring proper updates to that document means the UX and UI designers did their job and didn’t let the mechanism interfere with the outcome.
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Ways to Improve Your User Flow
But what if the flow was not what you had hoped? Let’s say your user was not able to immediately locate the document. Or perhaps he or she was able to check it out and back in just fine, but the updates were not saved.
In this scenario you would want to go back and revisit the search function or even take a few steps back to how documents are inventoried in the first place. Further, you would want to examine how document changes are saved and whether a glitch in the system did not recognize the updates, as well as whether the updates were not being saved because users could not intuit that step.
It is important to take the time to examine why a seemingly simple task does not flow as it should and formulate hypotheses on what happened and why. But keep in mind that a good intranet designer meets the user where he or she is, finding solutions to problems whether they originate with the system or the user.
Journey Mapping for Flow
In the same way civil engineers and road designers create blueprints for highways taking into consideration factors that affect traffic flow — alignment, elevation, traffic volume, speed, horizontal and vertical clearance, and even where exits will be placed so motorists can fill up with gas — UX and UI intranet designers consider factors that affect task flow in the context of the larger intranet blueprint. To accomplish this, they develop user personas and then research their current abilities and needs along with anticipated future abilities and use.
Much of UX is about solving problems for users. When crafting a user journey, the designer needs to understand the users’ personas, their goals, what their motivations are, what holds them back, where their current pain points lie, and the main tasks they want to achieve.
So typically, the mapping process will begin by asking some basic questions:
- User personas: Who are the users and what specific tasks do they want to accomplish today?
- Pain points: What barriers exist that could prevent the users from accomplishing these tasks? What are typical problems that could cause the user to become sidelined for lack of resources or timely inputs or results?
- Current and Future Skills: What insights, abilities or information are the users relying on to accomplish the tasks? As they elevate their intranet use sophistication or their job functions evolve, what tasks might these users want to accomplish in the future?
- Goals: How does each specific task help the user reach a larger goal or goals?
The answers to those questions provide a starting point for the UX and UI design team to determine how to make sure the intranet they are creating takes into account the need for easy task flow.
How 2Plus2 Helps Intranet Tasks Flow
The UX and UI intranet design experts at 2Plus2 understand the importance of seamless and easy task flow when it comes to making the most out of your investment in an employee intranet. We take the time to understand your employees’ needs, goals, abilities, and concerns so we can create a tool that is productive and functional, as well as a beautiful reflection of your company and its culture.
To learn more about our process, give us a call at 510-652-7700 or contact us online.