Behind the scenes with Microsoft Flow design: five minutes to “wow”

Vu Anh Nguyen

Everyone must have had times when they wish certain mundane tasks at work could be executed automatically. Enters Microsoft Flow, Redmond’s currently-in-preview service that helps you to do just that. One of the company’s UX designers, Nitish Kumar Meena, has published a new post on Medium detailing the thinking process behind the making of this new, innovative service.

To be fair, the idea of connecting apps to perform certain actions together itself is not quite new: web-based service IFTTT (If This Then That) has been a long-time popular choice for normal consumers to e.g. save a picture to Dropbox if it’s uploaded to Instagram, with around 20 millions combinations (or “recipes” as the developer calls it) used a day and apps on both iOS and Android.

“In the design process, as user experience designers, we play the role of the personal assistant who does your work tasks for you.”

Microsoft Flow differentiates from other services with its focus on professional applications, deep integration with Microsoft enterprise services like Office, SharePoint, and OneDrive, developer-friendliness (like Code View in Azure, support for GitHub, SQL, Salesforce, etc.) and more. The idea is that a business professional needs only to connect the services with Microsoft Flow, and just let it work quietly in the background. The “wow” moment comes when you see your tasks get done systematically like there’s a personal assistant at your beck and call, and it is this “wow” moment that the Microsoft Flow UX design team is aiming to achieve. In 5 minutes.

The card-based design of the templates.
The card-based design of the templates.

Called “5 Minutes to Wow”, the rule is the basis for how Flow is designed, to engage users in the first five minutes of use by simplifying the process of building a flow, while making the templates and pages as engaging as possible. The designers have reached the consensus of a scalable card-based template designs, which has the added benefit of being responsive to different screensizes. Even the error pages lead to more template discoveries and suggestions.

The error page will lead users to other templates.
Even the error page will lead users to other templates.

Flow is currently still in its early phases, being in preview with 35 services, and Microsoft will need some time to monitor its quality and usage (with in-house tool Localytics). Nevertheless, the services seems to be well-received, and is constantly growing, with support for more services coming in the future – PowerBI being one mentioned by name. Stay tuned for more information regarding the growth of this potential service.

Image credits: Nitish Kumar Meena on Medium.