Best Practices for UX Deliverables: User Personas, User Flows, Wireframes and Prototypes – Part I

A UX designer is the person who defines the user experience of a product. To provide better user experience, as a UX designer, you follow the design process that helps you to better organize different stages of the product design. At each stage of the process, there are certain outcomes and deliverables that you build and they behave as input to the next stage of the process.

This article describes the best practices of a few UX deliverables that are produced throughout the design process. There can be many deliverables that UX designers create while designing a product, however, this number varies depending on the process, the type of product and user requirements.

  1. User Personas
  2. User Flows
  3. Wireframes
  4. Prototypes

1. User Personas

What is a user persona?

User personas represent the users who are going to use your product. At the start of your design process, you conduct user research to know about your users, their behavior, characteristics, needs, and goals to create the potential user groups of your product. Based on this research, you define the user personas and refer to them in your design process to make correct design decisions. User personas help you to remain focused on your users’ needs. A user persona includes the name, image, behaviors, motivations, challenges, and goals of a user group.

Importance of user personas in design process

The first and foremost step in the design process is to understand your users’ needs and requirements by doing user research. Different methods are used to perform user research like interviews, questionnaires, and observations of their behavior in the real environment. The outcome of this step is the user persona.

Personas are important for a product as they drive the design decisions at each stage of the process. Created at initial stages, these personas help you to fulfill users’ needs and goals during each stage of the design process. User personas help all your team members to make a consistent understanding of your users. They make it easier to design a user-centric product.

Do’s and Don’ts of user personas


1. Do user research

To create effective user personas, it is important to perform user research first. The user personas will reflect the real user information only if you know about your user. And to know your user, you should meet, observe and talk to them. Understand their challenges and motivations. Use this information to define user personas and hence better user experience of your product.

2. Keep your personas simple

Try to make user personas simple by adding clear and precise information. Since you are going to refer to your user personas frequently in the design process, so make them easy to understand and don’t clutter them with a lot of information. Anyone in your team should be able to look at the persona and get the idea of the user group that it represents.

3. Use visuals

Use visuals to represent the information in your personas. Colors and spacing can help you to define better layouts. Use illustrations and icons where possible as it takes less time to understand visuals than textual information. For example, you can use sliding controls or series of dots to display the levels of skills/traits of a user persona.

4. Personalize your personas

Use an image for each persona. This image represents the age, lifestyle, and occupation of the user groups for whom this persona is being created. Name your personas as it will become easier to refer to them by name while designing your product.

5. Keep your personas updated

While working with your users, you will feel that things are changing with time. Persona creation is not a one-time activity in the design process, and you need to make sure that they are showing the current information and state of your user group.

6. Follow a template

Build a template for your personas and stick with it. Your product will be used by multiple types of users and you will be needing a persona for each user type. To make them easily understandable, use a consistent template and follow it for each user type.

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1. Don’t skip personas

It is very tempting to jump directly towards the design or development phase without spending time on user research and persona creation. However, saving this time initially can lead you towards many problems in your design at later stages. You cannot relate your product features to your users when designing them.

2. Don’t rely on your opinion

Do proper research before you represent your user groups through personas. Don’t trust your own instincts while defining the personas. You do not represent your users. You cannot achieve the desired results if you design a product without understanding your real users and their needs.

3. Don’t Ignore your personas

Don’t put your personas in the background. This is not a step that you just need to follow; they need to refer continuously throughout the design process. Give real names to your personas so that it becomes easier for you to refer and relate them.

4. Don’t create redundant personas

It is easier to overlap the information in different personas. To avoid this, define clear user groups and make your personas distinguishable from each other in terms of features and behaviors.

5. Don’t make complex personas

Don’t make your personas complex by giving them too many tasks. This can lead you towards a complex design as you will try to provide each feature to every user group. Clearly identify the tasks that a persona can perform while using your product.

2. User Flows

What are user flows?

A user flow represents a series of steps that a user takes to achieve a meaningful goal using your product. In the design process, this flow is defined by using a visual representation showing steps and flow.

When user personas are defined, the next step in the design process is to define the flow of tasks the user is going to perform in the product. A user flow usually includes a name, steps, users, and a description of what happens at each step.

Importance of user flows in design process

User flows are related to product features and requirements. In order to complete a requirement, the user will perform different tasks. Each user flow represents a series of steps the user is following to complete a task. By defining the user flow, you will be able to determine the required modules, sections, screens, and the order in which they should appear on the interface.

User flows provide a simple way to understand what the user is going to do with your product, and hence make it easier to discuss, review and refine them with your internal stakeholders and clients. User flows define the user interactions with the product without getting worried about the layout and design. Remember, user flows can change anytime based on the requirement change or user feedback. 

Do’s and Don’ts of user flows


1. Clarify requirements 

Since user flows are directly related to the product features and how users will interact with your product to achieve their goals, it is important to analyze requirements clearly when you are working on user flows. 

2. Start from paper

Paper or whiteboards are the best tools to start designing user flows. Multiple revisions will be required to clarify the requirements and to identify the best flow. Starting with a digital tool will take a lot of time in designing and then refining of ideas. However, while sharing the user flows as deliverable to stakeholders, designing them with a digital tool will give them a professional and elegant look.

3. Relate with user personas

User personas provide good input to design user flows. Using the personas you can identify the types of users, their challenges, behaviors, and goals. This will help you design the flow that best suits their needs.

4. Create a story

A user flow depicts a story from start till end by highlighting the users that are acting in the story. Make sure that your user flows are telling the stories well and stakeholders take interest in them.

5. Define user interactions

Understand the intended path that users will take to achieve the goals. For example, a user wants to order a pair of shoes from an online store. The path can be divided into a series of steps like searching the catalog and finding the required items, choosing the item, adding it to cart, checking-out, adding payment details, and placing the order. All these steps will be part of the user flow.

6. Make them easy to follow

Add enough details in a user flow so that it represents all product features and the flow of a particular task. A detailed user flow will help you to communicate your ideas effectively to your clients.

7. Reduce the number of steps

Provide the best possible path for users to complete a task. Remove any redundant steps and make it easier and faster for them to achieve their goals. Ask only required information from the user.

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1. Don’t make multi-directional user flow

Keep user flows simple and make them flow in one direction. Adding multiple directions within the same user flow will make it difficult to follow and explain in client meetings.

2. Don’t start with a digital tool

Starting from a digital tool will consume your time as it will be difficult to update the user flows. Also, your attention will divert towards the tool and its functionality rather than the concept and story you want to present in the flow.

3. Don’t add multiple scenarios in one user flow

Each user flow represents a task or a goal that the user is going to achieve by following the given path. Keeping the scope of a user flow limited to one goal or one task will make it easier to understand and quick to make changes.

4. Don’t span one task in multiple user flows

Similarly, breaking a task in multiple flows will lose the power of communication that a user flow should provide to its audience.

5. Don’t make an ambiguous flow

A stakeholder following a user flow should be able to follow the given path without any confusion. Don’t make ambiguous flows that are difficult to explain and understand.

Continue with Part II of the article.

This article was originally published at Marvel.

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