Flowcharts can be an incredibly useful tool for making something that was complex seem simple. When combined with the right visuals, flowcharts can also be incredibly helpful in achieving buy-in by committee members on a project’s design or proposed process. To achieve this, make sure to use these 14 tips when creating your next flowchart.
Start with a detailed process map
Prior to getting knee-deep in boxes and lines, it is important to get some high-level items down on paper first. You can use Mindmeister or another mind mapping tool for this step of the process. This allows you to get into more detail (and give greater consideration) once you have all your content down on paper.
Ensure the flowchart has a clear start and endpoint.
The human brain loves beginnings and endings. We all know the saying ‘enter at the beginning, exit at the end’. This is not only true for movies but also for our brains when looking at new information. It is important to make sure both of these are clear in your new flowchart. This means making boxes that clearly represent what they are representing (a certain part of the process). If you want to use different colors or – do it early in your process so you can avoid the headache later on.
Don’t jump around or go back and forth
We all know that dreaded feeling when we are watching a movie and the director decides to skip around in time just for dramatic effect. Unfortunately, it can be incredibly frustrating to read a flowchart that does this as well. It makes it harder to follow and may cause confusion or allow other members of your team who review the flowchart to get confused – leading them to ask questions you already answered (or didn’t answer).
Keep boxes square
As mentioned in tip #2, boxes should be clear about what they represent. I find that one way of achieving this is to make the boxes square. This way it is clear that this box represents a single point in time or process altogether.
Label your lines clearly and use arrows when necessary
Lines are an important part of your future process flowchart — but only if they are used properly. To avoid confusion, each line should have a label clearly identifying what it is representing (such as ‘wire’, ‘forklift’, etc). If there are multiple lines between two different parts of the process, you can use arrows to show that one follows another for example, or other additional details about what is taking place at certain points in time.
Don’t redraw a process just for flowchart purposes
If you are making your flowchart in Mindmeister – you can literally grab anything on your mind map and drop it into the flowchart tool. This is great if the item makes sense to be there but may not necessarily need to go there. While this may seem obvious, it is something I have seen quite often when creating diagrams for clients who are using Mindmeister.
Review flowcharts for future revisions
Don’t get me wrong — reviewing your new flowchart prior to publishing or sharing it with others is a good idea, but don’t just review it once. It can be incredibly helpful to have other people review your suggestions after work hours or after they have had some time away from the project/task at hand so that they can view the flowchart with fresh eyes.
Use graphics to enhance your flowchart
If you find that your flowchart is not as easy to read as it could be, try inserting a graphic element such as an icon or even a simple picture to help break up the content and make it easier for others to understand.
Create alternative layouts for the same process
Once you have created an initial flowchart — you may want to create additional layouts. If there are multiple ways of showing the same process to people, include them all so everyone can select what they feel most comfortable looking at and editing if needed.
Delete unnecessary appendices
If you do not need to include them — then don’t. Diagrams (such as flowcharts) can get extremely cumbersome and complicated if too much information is being thrown into one location. This can be confusing or overwhelming to others who are reviewing your flowchart so it is best to have a few versions available so everyone can choose what works for them.
Use a unique style and symbols for each process if needed
Iteration of process diagrams, such as flowcharts, can be incredibly useful when looking at how things change over time/how something comes together from start to finish – but only if they are easy enough to read and understand quickly. This means you should avoid any unnecessary details that just contribute to the “busyness” of the diagram.
One way of doing this is by having a unique style and/or color for each process so they are easy to quickly identify when looking through the flowchart.
Try to include diagrams that are easily shareable
We all know that Mindmeister is great for creating diagrams but it can also make them incredibly difficult to share with others. For this reason, I always create multiple views of my initial mind map depending on who I am sending it out to — especially if there are multiple people involved in the project. This allows everyone to review your suggestions without feeling overwhelmed by an overly detailed connection diagram.
Don’t make it too complicated
The flowchart itself should be relatively easy to read, understand and edit by yourself or others. If you need additional information about the process – don’t include it within your flowchart, rather provide it in an easily accessible location that is not connected directly with the main diagram. This helps keep things clean and allows everyone to follow along without confusion.
Venngage is a free flowchart maker that can help you make creative and effective flowcharts for your company. Since flowchart diagrams are mostly too complicated to make, Venngage provides its users with a wide range of flowchart templates to avoid starting out from scratch. To give you a better idea, here are some flowchart examples from Venngage.
Flowcharts are a great way to visually represent the steps of an idea or process. However, they can get complicated and confusing when too much information is included in one area. For this reason, it’s important to edit your flowchart down by removing unnecessary appendices and content so that you have a clean diagram with clear visuals for others viewing it.
If you are unsure as to how you begin with flowcharts, don’t forget to use Venngage. Enhance your company system and create your flowchart with Venngage today!