Workflow UX Design Part 2: Building a Positive User Experience

Iterative feedback between users and developers, as well as good documentation, will help ensure workflow automation is successful.

Brett Johnson

November 8, 2018

3 Min Read
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This article continues directly from our earlier discussion on UX for Automation. Here, we continue to look at the impact design decisions have on the user experience. Our user personas Sheila and Casey remain the same as we look at feedback loops and documentation.

Feedback loop

To continually improve workflows, we need feedback from people consuming them. A well-designed feedback process increases both the quality and quantity of feedback.

Providing feedback takes time, which means users are more likely to provide feedback if they can see value from their submissions. By following up feedback submissions and closing the feedback loop, we ensure that users can see the value.

(Image: Pixabay)

Respond back to the submitter, regardless of the outcome from their request. Responses should be easy to understand to users of all technical levels. For example, a user wants to change all icons to periwinkle blue as it matches their favorite tie. This might create confusion for other users. The request is rejected, and the submitter is notified and provided a reason for the rejection.

A lack of communication back to users can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction, angst, and possibly resentment. These negative feelings could impact the adoption of future projects.


When building user documentation, we need to consider the people who read the documentation and the what information they require from the documentation. Documentation needs to cater to visitors of different skillsets and with differing objectives.

Documentation should aim to help users to move past sticking points and continue with their work while providing a positive experience. Users often reference documentation when stuck, and we need to ensure that the emotional response is positive.

Organize documentation in a logical manner which conveys information in a clear and concise manner. Information that is hard to find or understand leads to dissatisfaction and frustration, increasing support calls.

Nobody likes calling a call center only to be passed from operator to operator, each only providing partial information; a challenge which is also faced when it comes to building documentation structures.

Keep pages short and to the point, providing reference links to additional and relevant articles.

Consider what someone was attempting to achieve when directed to the documentation. If they were attempting to complete a web form, then the landing page should be specific to that form with examples and visuals.

Documentation which is retrieved from a web server would be suitable to Sheila, whereas Casey might prefer to access the documentation offline or as help files within CLI tools.

Different types of media can be used to help improve documentation. Text and screenshots work well for simple ‘how-to’ guides, but complex guides or concepts might perform better if accompanied by a video. When assessing types of media, we need to consider Sheilas needs and ensure a positive experience.

Language should only be a complex as required, allowing for the content to be quickly consumed and understood, we are not writing a piece of historical literature. Both documentation type and user skill level influence appropriate language usage.


Reliability is likely a part of your workflows, though it’s probably considered from a technical point of view and not on the impact it has on user experience. While we know that users want their workflows to be reliable, the emotional response to is an important consideration.

From a technical review, a workflow can be considered reliable if it consistently completes successfully each time. However, if the time it takes for a workflow to complete varies greatly, a user could see this as unreliable.

An important consideration is to ensure that the information returned to the user is consistent with each run. Error handling may be used to work around known issues, and we need to ensure that no information is lost.

Reliability issues often result in users feeling exasperated, detached, and frustrated. By making sure our workflows are reliable to the user, we can drastically improve the experience.


When designing automated solutions, allocate time to consider the users as people and their emotional response when consuming your work. Taking steps to build a positive experience will encourage better feedback and increase adoption chances.

About the Author(s)

Brett Johnson

Senior Consultant, VMwareBrett works as a consultant focusing on helping clients adopt automating platforms and practices. A core component of these engagements is to help clients integrate new processes within their existing policies.

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