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Flow charts give team members a picture of how users complete specific tasks.
A flow chart may not reveal all the details of the interactions, but it does offer
a comprehensive view of the user experience for a particular objective. The
objective can be high-level, like researching cars, or more specific like establish-
ing a user account.
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Every member of the project team will use the flow. For developers, the flow
is an overview of the logic in the system, documenting each step in the pro-
cess and the business rules linking them. Designers will use flow charts to plan
screen designs. User flows are also a good way to give stakeholders an early
glimpse into the final product.
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These documents can be used at a broad level, painting an entire picture of
how an organization interacts, or a microscopic level, describing how a single
person accomplishes a specific task. As with any other document, the amount
of work depends on the level of detail and the amount of research or planning
required. Even the simplest tasks can require a complex series of business rules
to accommodate every situation, which must be documented for the flow chart
to have any value.
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User flows are flexible tools that can be used throughout the project to docu-
ment different aspects of it. Business processes may constitute requirements for
the system, and can be documented using a flow chart. Further into the project,
the design team can use a flow chart to define how a particular function works
on the site.
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There are many different ways to illustrate a flow. The typical approach involves
using a variety of symbols to indicate different steps in the process, but some
designers create a series of rough HTML pages. Linking these pages together,
the designer shows—at a high level—how the flow will work. Other technolo-
gies, like Flash, offer additional approaches to describing flows. Of course, none
may be more effective than a simple written narrative.

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