UX task flows vs. user flows, as demonstrated by pancakes

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erika
everything is design(ed)
4 min readMar 2, 2019

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A common question students ask me when learning about interaction design is: what’s the difference between task flows and user flows?

While every designer seems to have a slightly different understanding of the two concepts, this is an effort to offer one perspective on the distinction.

Both task flows and user flows are deliverables that are generally useful within the interaction design phase of UX design processes, wherein we map out the structure, hierarchy, organization, and relationships across content and features of our designs, so that people who use the design (e.g. a product, service, experience) can fluidly navigate through the design to accomplish their desired goals.

Here’s how I differentiate between task flows and user flows: task flows focus on single tasks, whereas user flows tend to focus on a specific user (i.e., a target audience group or a persona).

A Venn Diagram showing the differences and similarities between task flows and user flows.

Task flows tend to be linear, showing the high-level steps that a person would take to get to a specific goal or end point. Task flows tend not to branch out with options or decision points, tend to be linear and sequential, and are generally meant to be simple, rather than complex.

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