Part 3: Advanced Tips & Tricks
Consider your audience
While many flowchart symbols are universally accepted, you can customize your symbols to your audience as long as you’re sure that audience will recognize the alternative imagery you’ve selected.
You can import images right into Cacoo, or use one of our many other shapes available throughout our Shapes Library.
Readability is incredibly important for flowcharts. If they aren’t easy to read and process, what was the point in creating such a comprehensive visual?
Make sure to adjust the size of your shapes so that they are uniform as the flow progresses. If you use a particularly sized rectangle, stick with that same width/height throughout.
For arrows, keep them flowing in the same direction. They typically flow from left to right or top to bottom. Make sure that you’re naming your arrows after any Conditional/Decision shape is used. And make sure you are consistent with how many arrows enter and exit particular shapes.
Ideally, only one line or arrow should come out of a process symbol. Only one flow line should enter a decision symbol, but multiple (usually 2-3) can exit the symbol. And only one flow line should be used with a Start/End symbol.
Use text sparingly within your symbols. If your audience has to read too much, you slow down how quickly your information can be absorbed.
The most common mistakes people make with flowcharts are mostly related to making them clear and readable. Some people do too much, some not enough. Both can diminish the effectiveness of your flowchart.
Using the wrong symbols
While it may not seem important at first to choose a rectangle rather than a diamond for all processes, it’s important for your audience. Readers accustomed to the commonly agreed upon meanings of flowchart symbols may struggle to read your flowchart if you’ve assigned your shapes at random.
Flowing in multiple directions
The most widely accepted flow directions are top to bottom and left to right. Choose one and stick to it. Going against the norm or trying to combine the two will most certainly confuse viewers.
Using too many (or not enough) colors
Colors should be used to help tie like-pieces together visually. If you assign a color to the process shape, use it consistently. If you get too creative with colors or don’t use enough color to separate disparate parts of your flow, it can make your design confusing to read or fall flat.
Inconsistent branch directions
Many people overlook which types of arrows come from which part of the shape. More specifically, when dealing with the Conditional symbol, e.g. Decision symbol, you should have all “True” conditions flowing from the bottom of the diamond and all “False” conditions flowing out the right side.
You want to maintain even spacing around your symbols, with enough room for each of them to breathe without stretching so far your diagram becomes mostly white space.
Flowcharts for developers
While today’s developers use source code to express algorithms, flowcharts are still a useful tool for developers, especially when they’re working with cross-functional teams that include non-developers.
For collaboration to be effective, others must be able to understand what you’re doing and why. Flowcharts make it easy for everyone to understand how things work and collaborate on creative solutions to your unique business opportunities.
You can also use flowcharts to demonstrate the logic behind a new feature or product before starting to code. This saves time and provides an overview your team can follow for what needs to be done.
In addition, flowcharts can:
- Illustrate the way code is organized
- Detail the execution of code within a program
- Plan the structure of a website or application
- Demonstrate how users navigate a website or program
Developers also use a number of related diagrams, such as Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagrams, Network Diagrams, Sitemaps, and Network Diagrams.
Choosing your flowchart tool
If your flowchart needs to be presentable to others, you’ll likely need some kind of app or software to build it out. While you may start with a written list or a few sketches, eventually you’ll need a tool, and choosing the right tool is important for getting the results you need.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a tool:
What are its sharing capabilities?
If you want others to view, comment on, or even edit your diagrams, you need to see what options your tool provides for sharing.
If you can only share diagrams with others who have the program installed on their computer, this can be quite limiting. If it’s a cloud-based tool, check to see if others will need a login to see your work.
When it comes to exporting, what are your format options? What about embedding your wireframes directly onto a webpage?
Each tool has its benefits and drawbacks. If sharing is a priority for you, figure out who you can share diagrams with, who can comment on them, and who can edit them.
Does it allow for collaboration?
Some programs require you to export your files to your teammates to collaborate. This makes keeping track of versions difficult, and it can slow down your process when you’re waiting for someone to give you details about a particular part of your flow.
Meanwhile, other programs offer simultaneous editing, where you can work together with people, in real time on the same diagram.
If you’re working alone, maybe collaboration isn’t an important feature for you. But if your team needs to regularly access and edit files together, this can be a crucial time saver.
What platform is it available on?
Again, if you’re working with a team across multiple computers or devices, you’ll likely want a cloud-based product that allows easy access to your whole team no matter where they are.
If you’re working alone, a downloaded program might be fine. Just don’t get caught without your computer if you need to make some last minute updates.
Do you need offline access?
Web-based products may not be the best choice for people who often find themselves working out of range of a working internet connection.
Nowadays, with public Wi-Fi connections and hotspots becoming more widely available, this is less of an issue than it was in the past, but some still find this a hindrance under certain circumstances.
What kind of pre-made templates are available? Can you create your own?
Creating flowcharts entirely from scratch isn’t necessary. You probably have a few favorite templates that you like to start with and shapes you know you’ll want to use. Check out what kind of templates each tool has to offer.
Moreover, see if it’s possible to create or upload your own templates and shapes. Customizing your library of available templates will speed up your workflow, especially when you’re designing a large number of wireframes for a big project.
Why choose Cacoo for creating flowcharts?
You need the right tool at the right time to make great designs. That’s why it’s important to consider how diagramming tools fulfill your specific needs, rather than just reviewing an exhaustive list of features.
Cacoo is simple to use, easy to learn, and accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Cloud-based diagramming allows you and your team to collaborate on diagrams in real-time, and share them with important stakeholders without them needing to download any programs or even sign up for an account.
You can create diagrams in minutes; not just flowcharts, but mind maps, sitemaps, network diagrams, wireframes, and more.
Cacoo can help organize your entire project. With our Team plan, you can save diagrams into individual projects, share diagrams automatically with groups, and get feedback in comments right in the app.
You’ll also get:
- Advanced exporting options (PNG, PDF, PPT, PostScript, or SVG)
- Revision history (see what changes were made and when)
- In-app chat (and commenting)
- Easy sharing (no downloading needed)
- Diagram embedding (embed diagrams into any webpage)
- Team management (invite people to your Organization, create groups, and assign roles)
- Advanced security (manage access to diagrams, so you know exactly who’s seeing it)
Try it out for yourself with our free 14-day trial. You can create diagrams, invite your team, and see if Cacoo is the right tool for you. No credit card required. No risk involved.
We also offer a Plus plan for those who don’t need our more advanced collaboration features but are still interested in the joining the 2.5 million users who depend on Cacoo for their diagramming needs.