Task flow vs. interaction flow

It’s not uncommon for UX practitioners to confuse between task flow and interaction flow when it comes to task analysis. Although the two share pretty similar forms, they differ from each other because they serve distinct purposes.

A task flow focuses on the user’s goal and how the user achieves this goal. In reality, there is always a gap between user’s current situation and the goal. To cross over the gap and reach the goal, the user must take certain key steps. And the key steps are what to cover in a task flow.

Let’s take Yelp for an example. A user’s purpose is to have a great dinner. To have the great dinner, he needs to arrive at a restaurant. And to arrive at the restaurant, he needs to direct from current point to the restaurant. To direct to the restaurant, he needs to choose one restaurant. And these are what to cover in a task flow.

It doesn’t matter if the user swipes or taps on the screen, or whether he reads a restaurant’s comments. Likewise, it doesn’t matter what messages pop up to the user or what navigation app does Yelp brings him to. These user actions and system feedbacks fall under the umbrella of interaction flow.

An interaction flow directs on the interactions between the user and the product which assist the user completing his goal. These interactions include the appearances of the interface, the gestures the user performs, and the feedbacks the system gives.

While an interaction flow reveals micro steps, a task flow stands on a higher level. The task flow is a powerful tool because it lays a foundation for the product’s information architecture.

Information architecture, which is majorly about organizing a product’s content, is determined by the user’s task flow. By looking into the key steps in a task flow, the designer could clarify what types of information to cover and what hierarchy the information follows.