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How to Design a Flowchart

Articles
July 30, 2020
How to Design a Flowchart
Mila Lelyuk
UI Designer
FlowMapp
Mila, UI designer in FlowMapp. Enjoys sharing useful stuff: tools, books, and tips for colleagues. Adheres to minimalism philosophy in life and web design.

Once we’ve learned what a flowchart is from the previous article, let’s connect the dots between a poor-designed and well-done flowchart. We’ll share top design tips on creating and designing them. Also, you’ll see good-looking examples and will be able to make everyone fall in love with your cosmic flowchart layout!

Let’s start!

10 Tips to Design the Best Flowchart Ever!

1. Use Consistent Design Elements

Consistent Design Elements

All your shapes and lines, texts and comments within one flow chart should be done in a unified style. Consistency is key, as it helps people perceive data represented in graphics much quicker. For example, you are starting and ending your flow chart design with a terminator and put rectangles between them. Check whether all the shapes are of the same size and have similar spacing and lines between them. Look at their alignment.  


Keep in mind: Consistent composition simplifies perception. Viewers like lightweight and clear schemes.

2. Make it Clear and Simple

The main goal of every flowchart is the simplification of data perception. So, if yours is too complex and viewers can’t get what’s going on, your flow chart design should be reworked or enhanced.

Don’t overload it with texts or images. If your flowchart becomes giant and can’t fit one page, divide it into parts and insert links to the first scheme. 


Keep in mind: Data about business processes should be understandable, not distracting.

3. Flow Data from Left to Right

Right data flow direction

When you open any kind of document, you start looking on the page from the top left corner and end exploring it at the right bottom. So, this type of structuring helps viewers to easier read and comprehend perceived information.


Keep in mind: The flowchart design “from left to right” is natural for people. 

4. Start and Finish Points

Every story has its setting and denouement. Every user flow map has its start and finish points. If you miss them in flow chart design, viewers will get more questions than answers:

  • What is the point of this data? 
  • Where and why does it start?
  • What are the conclusions?
  • What does the whole process lead to?


Keep in mind: Follow your story. Answer these questions with your flowchart design and contents.

5. Color Coding

Color Coding

Experiment with different colors. Use a coherent color scheme to highlight important steps. For example, decisions or shapes requiring actions (returning to some early steps) may be marked with non-standard colors.

Use no more than 4-5 colors. Otherwise, you’ll make your flowchart a work of modern art but not a clear story. Good color matching gives a professional and calming feel.


Keep in mind: Find ready-made palettes made by authors online. Alternatively, set your own palette if you have nice art skills.

6. Shapes to Use

If you want just everyone to admire your easy to understand flow chart design, use standard shapes.

This infographic will remind you what shapes people commonly use:

Basic flowchart shapes

Need more details on shapes? Read our article ‘How to Make a Flowchart’. It covers the topic of basic and custom shapes and symbols.


Keep in mind: diversity is not good in all situations. An overabundance of forms and shapes can lead to misunderstanding. So, keep it simple! 

7. Match the Style to the Subject

This point depends on your company or project specifics. Creative agencies prefer bright and even sometimes crazy flowchart design. Large enterprises stay organized and concise. However, work out a personal attitude to every case. Adding creative elements (symbols, unusual paths) won’t mean unprofessionalism. Such a style might be engaging and thrilling, yet well-organized and informative.


Keep in mind: Try different approaches, but don’t get too fond of it. Plenty of creative elements in a flowchart for, let’s say, investors might distract their attention from the topic.

8. Add Easy to Follow Paths

Simple and understandable flow chart

A flow chart design doesn’t imply creating and solving puzzles. No one will spend time on solving riddles, where the arrow from the nearest element leads. On the contrary, flowcharts are intended to answer difficult business questions in simple words. When one sees a decision symbol, they should clearly understand where to find possible outcomes for this decision.


Keep in mind: Clean and not intertwined lines connecting subjects is your perfect choice. Let them be intuitive and tell your story.

9. Add Credible Statistics

Numbers and statistics are a wonderful way to show credibility. They show facts on what people choose (for instance, while making a decision between two or more options). Consequently, a viewer can draw their own conclusion regarding the matter. What’s more, numbers are descriptive and eliminate the need to write a lot of text to convince the reader.

Add links to the sources for readers to trust the data you share.


Keep in mind: Don’t over-do with numbers in your flowchart design. Otherwise, it can turn out to be a statistical report. 

10. Ideas for Results

End results are an essential part of any process flow. So, you can build a kind of hierarchy for them. For instance, using different levels of one phenomenon is acceptable: the best/good/the worst. Naturally, every result will have its own path. If these paths intersect, such a flow chart design will be difficult to follow. So, let them exist separately and not be confused. They should go one by one.


Keep in mind: Make sure your results are clear and show your flowchart design to a couple of colleagues before presenting it to everyone.

Great Flowchart Designs Examples

Want to see how all ten tips are implemented in real life? Let’s explore these flowchart examples from FlowMapp!

This one describes the process of changing one’s profile picture. Colored blocks of results give us a direct understanding of what’s going on there: 

Changing one’s profile picture
Change of profile picture

This flowchart shows how one gets logged into a service. As in the previous one, colors and icons make the process obvious. We see what the user does and whether their actions lead to success or not. This user flow scheme is more complex due to the variety of actions and outcomes. However, everything seems to be very simple:

One gets logged into a service copy
Log into a service copy

The most complex yet easy to understand example. It describes a service’s email funnel. This is a brilliant sample showing how well-designed flowcharts tell multilevel complicated user stories in simple shapes and words.

a service’s email funnel
Service’s email funnel

FAQ

  • Should I use a traditional design approach or is it better to find a unique one?

It depends on your needs. You can even start with finding a suitable flow chart template as an example. Next, set a simple flow on your own (in MS Word or Excel) or in specialized software. For example, FlowMapp offers a convenient and intuitive interface where you can only drag and drop items and map your perfect flowchart in several steps.

And getting back to the question, the best answer is: “Use classic approach and add a bit of creativity, but don’t overdo!”


  • Should I incorporate the subject into images/arrows?

That’s not mandatory, but if that makes your scheme easier to read, why not? The final goal is to make data clear for viewers. If this can help, do it!


  • How to use text elements?

The text takes one of the first places in a flowchart design. It should be clearly visible, so check its size. Fonts should be simple without bizarre curls.

Be brief and use simple phrases. Sentences should consist of no more than 7-9 words.

As for texts in shapes, they should be very short. 3-5 words are enough.


  • How to use tips or suggestions?

All our tips are recommendations but not a call to action. Choose only those that will improve the quality of your scheme. Give preference to basic shapes, descriptive icons, brief comments, and straightforward directions. After you’re done with the basics, think whether you need to improve your flow chart design. Ask your colleagues for feedback. Implement reasonable recommendations.


  • Should I choose standard or creative paths?

Creative paths are a great way to emphasize an individual style and informality of your flow charts. The unusual design is also perfect for social media, online magazines, and blogs. 

When it comes to presenting data to business partners, better choose standard paths.

If you can’t decide what to choose, adhere to a traditional approach. This is your guarantee that anyone will understand the meaning of the schemeю

Key Takeaways

To sum everything up, we want to repeat key rules of making TOP flowcharts!

  • Keep it simple! It’s not a puzzle to solve.
  • Stick to the clear logic! Start with A, proceed to B. 
  • Be creative yet concise! Don’t “overdo” with unusual elements.
  • Use professional software. Most of the work is already done and the processes are automated.
  • Learn from the best examples. Grab brilliant ideas and implement best practices!

We hope these tips will bring your user flow maps to the next level! If you still have questions on how to design user flows, sitemaps, personas or customer journey maps, contact us! We’ll be glad to help you!

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