The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Flowcharts
Visualizing complex processes and procedures is a difficult task. You may know your starting place and end goal, but understanding how to get from point A to point B can be overwhelming. It becomes even more challenging when you have to explain a complicated process to someone else. Flowcharts can solve your problems by turning your complex ideas into easy-to-follow visual breakdowns of multi-step workflows.
What Is a Flowchart?
A flowchart is a visual representation of a process or workflow. Arrows connect each step or idea in the process, showing the direction it moves. Flowcharts help people visualize a process by showing them how each idea leads to another idea, with each path ultimately reaching an endpoint. Flowcharts are useful in professional work environments and for personal projects.
Flowcharts can be as simple or complex as you would like. A flowchart could be as simple as just one idea connected to another with an arrow, while a complex flowchart could have several decision points with diverging pathways and multiple endpoints.
Flowcharts can be designed horizontally, vertically, or in multiple directions, as long as each step or concept is connected to another by an arrow. A vertical design is commonly used for "top-down" flowcharts. Top-down flowcharts help show the big picture of a process that has multiple levels. Your flowcharts can also have multiple lanes, looping paths, or separate paths leading to the same endpoint. Each flowchart differs based on what process or workflow it represents.
Uses for Flowcharts
- Quickly visualize a process or idea without having to worry about writing transitional phrases or using excessive technical jargon
- Explain concepts to someone unfamiliar with the subject
- Identify problems or inefficiencies with a workflow
- Give easy-to-follow instructions
- Present information to other people
- Compare different people's processes
- Plan a project
- Brainstorm ideas in an organized manner
How to Make a Flowchart
What Different Shapes Mean in a Flowchart:
- Circle: Can represent the start and endpoints
- Rectangle: A step in the process
- Arrow: Shows the direction of flow from one step/idea to another
- Diamond: Indicates a decision point. Diamonds have a question inside with diverging arrows marked with an answer to the question (e.g., "yes" or "no"). The user follows the path of the arrow marked with their response to the question.
Instructions for Making a Flowchart:
- Brainstorm and write out the steps or ideas of the process you intend to visualize in the flowchart. If this is a collaborative project, this first step will require communication and agreement on the order and steps of the topic.
- When the order of steps and flow of ideas are ready, put the first concept in a circle.
- Start connecting the first step to the following steps with arrows that point in the direction of flow. Put each following step in a rectangle.
- If your system has a decision point, write the question in a diamond with labeled arrows pointing in different directions to separate paths.
- For an easy-to-follow flowchart, end each pathway with a word or description in a circle.
- Check over your work by following each path to ensure there are start and endpoints. Now, you can use your flowchart to guide others through a process, analyze potential problems in the workflow, or gain a better understanding of the workflow.
Flowchart software helps you save time when creating flowcharts. You can get started fast with flowchart templates. Flowchart software lets you easily customize the templates with helpful tools. The best software offers special features, like easy integration into other web apps or a library of icons for a more visually appealing flowchart design.
Get Started Fast with Templates!
MindManager comes pre-installed with many templates for you to choose from. To use these templates:
- Open MindManager
- Click NEW in the navigation menu
- Select the template you want to use
- A preview screen will appear. Check to if you want to use your selected template
- Select Create Map
- Customize the template for your specific project
Other Types of Maps and Charts
Flowcharts are the answer to creating clear and concise visual representations of processes and workflows. With the help of flowcharts, you will become more productive, efficient, and a clearer communicator. Get started quickly with flowchart software from MindManager. Contact us to learn more about our flowchart software.