Looking at the flowchart below, one doesn’t need to be an expert in flowchart reading to understand this chart’s instructions.
But look at this one below; imagine you’re tasked with reading and executing the tasks within, wouldn’t you be overwhelmed?
Of course, you’d be.
Flowcharts can be an effective, efficient way to communicate and break down processes in an organisation. But they can also be confusing and even misleading if not properly prepared.
This article wants to show you how you can create flowcharts that people will easily understand.
Use different shapes to designate different processes
When designing a flowchart, you need to ensure that all points in the chart carry a consistent theme.
For example, look at this chart below; you can see that all the stages are represented with different design shapes – except for the entry and exit points, which are represented with oval shapes. Clearly, you don’t have to be a pro to notice that each shape signifies a different instruction or task.
Colour variance can work wonders, too
Sometimes it makes sense to use a similar or different colour theme in flowcharts.
This is particularly useful when you have steps in the process that carry similar meanings but which appear in clearly different positions on the chart.
By using similar colours, users can easily tell there’s a relationship between this step and that step.
It is also useful when you need to differentiate one step/stage from another. By using a red colour text for a step, and a grey colour text for another, it’ll be hard for users to get confused or lose focus easily.
Finally, using the same colour of texts might also be useful when you have steps that require the user to return to an earlier step.
Look at an example below:
Feel free to use unusual elements
The common practice in flowcharting is the use of shapes and arrows to represent processes. But who said you couldn’t use hyperlinks, images, real pictures, and other visual aids?
Clearly, you can.
If there’s even a chance that you can improve the comprehensibility of your chart by adding an unusual visual aid, then you shouldn’t hesitate to do it – particularly if you need the chart in a presentation slideshow.
Look at this chart:
Tell me whether you don’t find this enchanting, visually-engaging, and straightforward effective. Of course, you do.
The only challenge you might have with creating charts like these is you may not easily find a flowcharting software capable of handling the task. Luckily, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you.
Try Zen Flowchart maker today. And you’ll be pleased!
Ensure your chart is on one page
The whole point of creating a flowchart is to make communication brief, concise, and easily comprehensible. By extending your charts into multiple pages, this purpose may be defeated because readers will get distracted as they swipe between pages.
This is why we strongly recommend keeping all charts to a one-pager.
If your chart is proving too big to sit on a page, try these quick fixes:
Try scaling the overall size of the chart down. You can do this by going to the chart edges and zooming in.
Try rearranging. Sometimes, size can be reduced by changing the arrangements of the chart. Perhaps, you’ve arranged stuff in a vertical fashion; try slanting or horizontal arrangements or a combination of all.
Always flow data from left-to-right
I’ve seen charts with data flowing in a haphazard fashion. This is not a good practice. Always ensure the data in your chart flows in a concurrent and consistent fashion, from left to right.
Never do otherwise!
Use a Split Path Instead of a Traditional Decision Symbol
A traditional decision symbol is one where a diamond shape is used to represent a decision.
Something like this:
Now, there are two problems with using this kind of symbol to represent decisions.
One, not everyone is familiar with the various design symbols in flowcharting. Therefore, using different shapes can confuse people. Secondly, using the diamond shape to present decisions immediately introduces two directions of information flow, breaking our left-to-right rule.
Using a split-path eliminates all these problems. It doesn’t introduce any new shape or symbol. It also adheres to our left-to-right process flow rule.
Here’s an example showing how a traditional decision symbol compares with the split-path technique.
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