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Dos and Don’ts When Creating a Flowchart

Dos and Don’ts When Creating a Flowchart

Flowcharts are incredibly powerful tools when used correctly. They solve problems in a fast and efficient manner. And when you master the flowchart creation process, you’ll be able to provide visual solutions to various issues.

When you create a flowchart, you should aim to keep things as simple as possible. After all, this diagram is supposed to be easily understood by anyone who looks at it. Besides that, there are other unspoken rules when creating a flowchart. Let’s check them out!

Should You Brainstorm?

The short answer to that is yes. You should always start by brainstorming. Before you can actually start working on the visual part of the flowchart, you should work on its contents. All aspects of the issue should be considered – that’s how you’ll be able to provide solutions to possible problems that might arise.

During the brainstorming phase, it’s a good idea to involve your team as well. They might come up with ideas that you haven’t thought of. It’s easy to have a neat and organized flowchart when you already know what the flow itself will look like. Once you have an overall idea of how the chart will look, you can then create a flowchart.

Flowchart Formatting – Does It Matter?

Yes, the format does matter. That’s because a flowchart in itself is very formulaic and needs to adhere to certain rules if you want everyone to understand it. We don’t really recommend you get too creative with it. The main traits of flowcharts are pretty much set in stone:

  • Format your flowchart from top to bottom or left to right;
  • Keep the spacing consistent between the elements;
  • The return lines should be kept under the chart, to make sure nothing overlaps;
  • There’s a symbol for everything:
    • Rectangles = processes
    • Diamonds = decisions
    • Circles = Start/End

Some rules are more flexible than these. But the ones above are the rules you should always be mindful of. Sure, opinions are changing and standards evolve but everyone knows and understands these rules. No need to start reinventing the wheel with a flowchart.

Editing Your Flowchart

Editing is an important part of the process. And since editing involves a lot of cutting, make sure to keep your flowchart short and simple – preferably on one page. If your flowchart takes up more than one page, people might get confused and lose the flow. However, we understand that not all flowcharts will fit into one page. That’s when we recommend you break them into smaller graphs.

When in doubt, just follow these simple tips:

  1. Read it out loud. When you read your content out loud, it’s easier to find inconsistencies or mistakes. You will also become aware of redundant words or details that you can then cut.
  2. Try out different fonts. Some standard fonts are larger than others. And because the whole point of a flowchart is to keep things short and simple, consider scaling your fonts to a 14.
  3. Resize your chart. Try to always think about resolution and the screen your chart will be displayed on. Don’t go so small the fonts and text will become illegible.

The most important thing – keep the formatting consistent. Every formatting change you make should reflect in the whole diagram. Otherwise, it will look disorganized and unprofessional. After you’re done editing, take a break and come back to your chart later. It’s easier to spot mistakes or inconsistencies with a fresh mind.

Flowchart Design Tips

When it comes to flowcharts, we don’t recommend you let your creativity run wild. Keep everything barebones, short and simple. A minimalist approach is recommended. That being said, here are some useful tips and tricks that will help you design the best flowchart.

  • Have a purpose. A flowchart’s main and only purpose is to explain a flow, an algorithm or a hierarchy. It should explain to your team how something works. If your flowchart is full of ornate designs and flowery language, it’s likely it will fail this purpose. Most of your design choices will come down to colours and shapes.
  • Mind the symbols. Symbols are important in a flowchart. Each symbol has a clear meaning and displays a certain idea. While the symbol meanings are pretty much set in stone, you can always play around with various shapes and sizes. Just make sure everything is consistent. For example, if you used a rectangle to mark a decision, don’t change it to a circle the next time.
  • Connecting the dots. After the shapes and colours are set, you can move on to connecting everything. As always, try to keep a level of consistency there as well. Don’t make the lines too long or too short and draw them at the same level.
  • Make it cross-functional. Making a flowchart cross-functional means adding other important details such as the relationships between elements and who’s in charge of what. This type of flowchart is a bit more complicated but it provides all the necessary details, while still keeping it simple and easy to understand.

Our Final Thoughts

We hope this article provided you with a deeper level of insight into flowcharts. While they might appear simple to create, it’s not always the case. As always, it’s harder to keep things simple and barebones than to add plenty of details. Still, the main takeaway from this article should be to keep things consistent.

You can add as many or as few details as you want. You can make hundreds of edits. But always try to keep things consistent. If you don’t, your flowchart won’t look professional and your colleagues won’t be able to understand the information presented.

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