Explore the standard Flowchart symbols and their usage

Flowchart Symbols   Flowchart Symbols and their usage

This is an overview of all the flowchart symbols that you will use when drawing flowcharts and process flow. All these objects are available in Creately and you can try out a demo or take a look at some sample flowcharts for more context.

Terminal / Terminator

The terminator is used to show where your flow begins or ends. Ideally, you would use words like ‘Start’, ‘Begin’, ‘End’ inside the terminator object to make things more obvious.

Process / Rectangle

Flowchart Process object is used to illustrate a process, action or an operation. These are represented by rectangles; and the text in the rectangle mostly includes a verb. Examples include ‘Edit video’, ‘Try Again’, ‘Choose your Plan’.

Data (I/O)

The Data object, often referred to as the I/O Shape shows the Inputs to and Outputs from a process. This takes the shape of a parallelogram.

Decision / Conditional

Decision object is represented as a Diamond. This object is always used in a process flow to as a question. And, the answer to the question determines the arrows coming out of the Diamond. This shape is quite unique with two arrows coming out of it. One from the bottom point corresponding to Yes or True and one from either the right/left point corresponding to No or False. The arrows should be always labelled to avoid confusion in the process flow.

Document

Document object is a rectangle with a wave-like base. This shape is used to represent a Document or Report in a process flow.

Stored Data

This is a general data storage object used in the process flow as opposed to data which could be also stored on a hard drive, magnetic tape, memory card, of any other storage device.

Direct Data

Direct Data object in a process flow represents information stored which can be accessed directly. This object represents a computer’s hard drive.

Internal Storage

This is an object which is commonly found in programming flowcharts to illustrate the information stored in memory, as opposed to on a file. This shape is often referred to as the magnetic core memory of early computers; or the random access memory (RAM) as we call it today.

Sequential Access

This object takes the shape of a reel of tape. It represents information stored in a sequence, such as data on a magnetic tape.

Manual Input

This object is represented by rectangle with the top sloping up from left to right. The Manual Input object signifies an action where the user is prompted for information that must be manually input into a system.

Subroutine / Predefined Process

This shape takes two names - ‘Subroutine’ or ‘Predefined Process’. Its called a subroutine if you use this object in flowcharting a software program. This allows you to write one subroutine and call it as often as you like from anywhere in the code.

The same object is also called a Predefined Process. This means the flowchart for the predefined process has to be already drawn, and you should reference the flowchart for more information.

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A new Creately Desktop Release amid Wesak

Today, we interrupt our usual slew of posts on diagramming and diagram types to make a new release announcement for Creately Desktop. Thanks to some really great customer feedback, we’ve been able to take all your concerns and include it into the latest Creately Desktop release. Some of the improvements include bug fixes, ensuring the process of syncing is smooth and trouble-free, while minute issues related to licensing have also been resolved. With this new release, you are sure to enjoy fast and easy diagramming par excellence.

Additionally, we got some great news for all our Creately for Fogbugz users. You can now renew your 1-year maintenance license by logging in with your existing account and extending your maintenance here. This license will allow you to enjoy a year’s worth of cool new upgrades for a nominal fee.

Indeed, things like bug fixes, new releases and updates may have kept the Creately team busy this past week but the truth is it has been a slow couple of days due to the celebration of Wesak in our R&D office in Sri Lanka. Taking some time off, the development boys and girls decked the office with colorful lanterns that are intrinsic to such an important religious festival.

Creately’s R&D center in Sri Lanka

As this week winds down, make sure that you stick to this space since the next few posts will focus on Sitemaps and some best practices related to it. Additionally, we just launched our Flowchart Minisite and Wireframe Ministe, so this is definitely a repository of valuable information that you should take a peek at. Stay tuned, more diagramming joy comes your way soon!

 

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Part 2 : 15 Mistakes you would unintentionally make with Flowcharts

This is the final post of our two-part series on FlowchartsPart 1 can be found here. Remember what really matters is having clarity and attention to detail when drawing flowcharts. In keeping with this train of thought, check out the rest of the interesting mistakes that we have compiled below.

9. Define alternate paths clearly

In certain flowcharts, processes do tend to fork. For the sake of clarity, it is best that you specify whether one branch needs to be followed or all of them.

 

 

 

 

 

10. Beware of loops

Processes may not run forever. However, make sure that you do document processes that may be too excessive that it affects the clarity of the flowchart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Be descriptive

It is suggested that you use a footnote, a call out or even a separate document to offer more detail for those process step descriptions that may need more detail.

 

 

 

 

12. Use a flowchart key

One of the best practices of using flowcharts is to have a flowchart key describing the symbols that are used.

 

 

 

13. Battling inaccuracy

When drawing flowcharts, remember that verifying the flowchart steps is critical to avoid any inaccuracies.

 

 

 

14. Stick to one level of detail

It’s best that you stick to a certain level of detail, e.g. a high-level, mid-level (like the diagram above) or detailed flowchart.

15. Don’t leave room for any uncertainty

Planning ahead would mean that you avoid any unwanted mistakes. So ensure that you ask questions like, “What happens next?”, “Is there a decision made now?”, and “Has the process description been complete?”

 

 

 

 

 

We hope this series has been useful. For more information on flowcharting, you can check out our site. If you got any queries or comments, please do get through to us.

 

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Part 1 : 15 mistakes you would unintentionally make with flowcharts

We just finished with Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 on the basics of UML diagramming. We now have a two-part series on Flowcharts. This is a very straightforward post, which you will find useful when it comes to getting your diagrams picture perfect. When it comes to flowcharts, one of the most significant things to consider is the element of clarity and attention to detail. Flowcharts, as we all know, can range from solving simple to complex problems. However, there is a list of common mistakes that are relevant to any flowchart, which you should be cautious of.

1. The use of appropriate symbols

Every symbol has a meaning. While it may seem convenient to use a process symbol for everything, this could end up confusing the reader. To get a better understanding of what symbols are relevant when, read up on what each object is all about.

2. Avoid flow direction that is inconsistent


The two most widely accepted flow directions are top to bottom or left to right. Having said that these two types of directions should not be mixed into the same flowchart. Consistency really does matter.

3. Excessive color schemes

Your flowchart is designed to give a solution to a problem. With this in mind, the last thing you want to do is to have your message lost in visual noise.

4. Symbol sizes should be consistent


Maintaining a flowchart that is well proportioned is vital when it comes to avoiding a visual mess. As a rule of thumb, ensure that the height and width are in proportion to each other and the rest of the symbols in the flowchart. This is not, however, applicable to objects that are meant to be intentionally small, like connectors.

5. The need for consistent branch direction

In a perfect world, a flowchart should be logical in all aspects. One of the areas that we do not pay much heed to is branch direction. The best example to illustrate this point is with Decision symbols. Ideally, TRUE conditions should flow out from the bottom while FALSE conditions should flow out from the right side.

6. Flowchart symbols and spacing

More often than not we choose to ignore this crucial point. To make your flowchart more professional you should maintain even spacing around symbols. The one exception to this rule would be Decision symbols, which require extra space to accommodate branch labels.

7. Remember to scale

One of the most basic facts that are overlooked is scaling. Too often a detailed flowchart is re-sized to fit just one page. This is never a good thing. It is better to have a flowchart span multiple pages than to be crammed into a small space, where all the details are unreadable. If you really aren’t happy to span your flowchart over several pages you might like to create a high level flowchart which incorporates several process steps in to one. Alternatively you can also group processes together and then collapse them to reduce the visual clutter of your flowchart.

8. Extended flowcharts

If your flowchart is connected to another flowchart, then instead of putting it in just one page, it is best that you connect it via a circular node to the flowchart on a different page.

Well that’s the first 8 done and tidied away. Keep this list handy and next time run through it at the end of your next flowcharting exercise. We’ll go through the remaining 7 mistakes in the next post. In the meantime if you have a common mistake you think others should avoid let us know in the comments and we’ll make sure it’s covered.

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3 reasons why you should quit writing (well, sort of)

Whatever opinion you may have of Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor did once say “Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu’un long discours,” or “A good sketch is better than a long speech”. We’re inclined to agree. I mean what do you prefer “reading”, this or this?

To drive this point home a bit further, we’ve pinpointed 3 reasons why you would do better by drawing the curtain (or turning the page) on writing for good. 1. Get lost with diagrams? Never!

Ask yourself – “Do I really have the time of day to understand yards of data or would I prefer a simple flowchart diagram instead?”

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2. Diagramming is faster

How confusing is this? It makes better sense to make an organizational chart within minutes.

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3. Clarity means diagamming

We’ve all done brainstorming on pages and pages of docs and emails. Confusion reigns in those instances. This is precisely why intelligent people brainstorm using mindmaps because information is far easier to assimilate.

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So there’s our case for diagramming. In an era when people have less patience, less time and a love for clarity, diagramming does supersede writing in every way. If you feel we’ve given you a strong urge to doodle, then you can do so with us.

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Harry Potter’s (flowchart) options. Joining Glee is one of them

Harry Potter said it best in his latest movie – Oi! There’s a war going on here! – and, that pretty much summed up the entire film.

While we sat en masse in theatres, enthralled by the CGI and MSG (umm, Pringles) overload Deathly Hallows achieved the third best opening worldwide (in the franchise). One wonders whether Part Two will whet our appetites to wave a hollywood wand and wish a faster recovery for the world’s economy.

So while Harry takes a well deserved break and enjoys the millions earned, largely thanks to you going and watching his film, we’re contemplating his options for the next film. We thought we’d put a cynical twist in the form of a flowchart to see what his options are. Trust us, it’s sure to make a Death Eater grin.image

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Flowchart Symbols

Flowchart Symbols and their usage

This is an overview of all the flowchart symbols that you will use when drawing flowcharts and process flow. All these objects are available in Creately and you can try out a demo or take a look at some sample flowcharts for more context.

Terminal / Terminator

The terminator is used to show where your flow begins or ends. Ideally, you would use words like ‘Start’, ‘Begin’, ‘End’ inside the terminator object to make things more obvious.

Process / Rectangle

Flowchart Process object is used to illustrate a process, action or an operation. These are represented by rectangles; and the text in the rectangle mostly includes a verb. Examples include ‘Edit video’, ‘Try Again’, ‘Choose your Plan’.

Data (I/O)

The Data object, often referred to as the I/O Shape shows the Inputs to and Outputs from a process. This takes the shape of a parallelogram.

Decision / Conditional

Decision object is represented as a Diamond. This object is always used in a process flow to as a question. And, the answer to the question determines the arrows coming out of the Diamond. This shape is quite unique with two arrows coming out of it. One from the bottom point corresponding to Yes or True and one from either the right/left point corresponding to No or False. The arrows should be always labelled to avoid confusion in the process flow.

Document

Document object is a rectangle with a wave-like base. This shape is used to represent a Document or Report in a process flow.

Stored Data

This is a general data storage object used in the process flow as opposed to data which could be also stored on a hard drive, magnetic tape, memory card, of any other storage device.

Direct Data

Direct Data object in a process flow represents information stored which can be accessed directly. This object represents a computer’s hard drive.

Internal Storage

This is an object which is commonly found in programming flowcharts to illustrate the information stored in memory, as opposed to on a file. This shape is often referred to as the magnetic core memory of early computers; or the random access memory (RAM) as we call it today.

Sequential Access

This object takes the shape of a reel of tape. It represents information stored in a sequence, such as data on a magnetic tape.

Manual Input

This object is represented by rectangle with the top sloping up from left to right. The Manual Input object signifies an action where the user is prompted for information that must be manually input into a system.

Subroutine / Predefined Process

This shape takes two names - ‘Subroutine’ or ‘Predefined Process’. Its called a subroutine if you use this object in flowcharting a software program. This allows you to write one subroutine and call it as often as you like from anywhere in the code.

The same object is also called a Predefined Process. This means the flowchart for the predefined process has to be already drawn, and you should reference the flowchart for more information.

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Case Study - FlutterScape | Creately

Web-based Flowcharts help Japanese startup integrate with partners faster

FlutterScape is a Japanese Social Marketplace which brings together sellers and buyers together in a casual and collaborative way. This give sellers the power to share their product discoveries, and expose buyers to unique products from abroad. FlutterScape is a small team with 3 internet enthusiasts who are passionate about improving the customer experience of both sellers and buyers.

Visual communication is one of the best ways of conveying abstract ideas across to the team. Takehiro Kakiyama, Co-founder and CEO of FlutterScape, had to visualize the business model, website eco-system and other logic to his team and clients. Having used PowerPoint initially, he wasn’t too happy. “It was really difficult for me to come up with a nice looking chart and flow diagram; it was time consuming and unfriendly in terms of sharing and collaboration. So google some keywords and learned about Creately”. said Takehiro Kakiyama.

With Creately’s online collaboration capability inviting team members and clients to collaborate on diagrams to review, comment and update diagrams is so easy.

When the team of FlutterScape considered to outsource their logistic layer, they negotiated the international shipping fee with possible logistic partners. The rate depended on the amount of operation they had to do for shipping packages.

Shipment required many use cases, so they used Creately to map out a shipment process flowchart based on the business model. They shared this flowchart model with the manager of the logistic company; on which he added/removed/suggested use cases based on their capability and experience. Then the FlutterScape team validated all the use cases - in case they failed to dispatch the package ‘cos its over-sized; or in case they shipped out the wrong article and the customer returns it to the logistic partner? In order to determine a smooth and effective process flow between FlutterScape and their logistic partner, they had to draw a shipment process flow before hand.

Creately’s online diagramming platform helped the team collaborate back and forth online and determine the international shipping rate based on the process flow.

Below is a simplified version of the Shipment Process Flow.

 

"The contribution of Creately to our business could not be measured in definite matrix but it has totally contributed to my efficiency whereby I saved a lot of time, leaving time to work on something else while Ari, my co-founder  and I were super hectic taking care of multiple tasks at the pre-launch stage. Thank you, Creately team!” concluded Takehiro Kakiyama. “Creately is a very user-friendly and smart service that really hits the spot. Creately is like “love”, so deep that the more you dig in, the more you can find out! “

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Flowchart Ideas for Small Businesses

Flowcharts are simple and easy-to-understand diagrams illustrating the logical sequence in a process. They help you communicate how processes work; map out logical steps in a process; and figure out ways to improve the process.

Here are some flowchart examples. All of them created with Creately’s online diagramming software! Drag-n-Drop Flowchart symbols to make a flowchart in minutes, and with Creately’s 1- click styling features and smart connectors anyone can create logical diagrams to document processes.

And, with the easy to use Flowcart templates, Swim Lane Templates and Work Flow templates flowcharting is a breeze on Creately. Check the 10 best examples to see some of the processes which are so easy to map out with flowcharts.

1) Flowchart to explain Creately

2) Creately’s Goal Funnel Flow

3) Recruitment Process Flow

4) Process Model of University Admission

5) Business Process Model

6) Social Media Flow Chart

7) Video Uploading Process

8) Creately’s Customer Support Process

9) Credit Card Transaction Process

10) After Sales Service Process

These are just a handful of ideas, but if you’d like to take your flowcharting experience to the next level get your Free Creately Account today.

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6 Useful Tips on Drawing Flowcharts

Drawing flowcharts can be a challenging task unless you know how to create them. But, if you’ve understood the basic principles, flowcharts are fairly simple things. It’s too simple and it’ll probably need one line to explain. Truly speaking, there’s more to flowcharts than simple shapes and arrows connecting them.

When I had to create my first flowchart, I did a lot of reading to understand the meanings and use of the flowchart symbols; and the importance of creating process flows. Here’s some useful tips and twiks to help you create better flowcharts in future. Read below for 6 tips on drawing flowcharts:

Why are you drawing the Flowchart(s)?

Identify why you are drawing a flowchart. It may be to explain a process to someone, to understand a process, to find loopholes in a process flow and so on. Whatever may the reason be, its important to identify the objective on why you want a flowchart. Once this is clear, you’re job is pretty straight forward!

Are there many ‘actors’ involved?

Swimlane chart is the best way to explain a process flow which includes different responsible parties (or things). They help clarify who / what is responsible for each step quite easily.

If you have many actors (say more than 6), it might be better to generalize them if possible. Ex. rather than having three columns for Bob, Wiley and John at Marketing department, just group them into the Marketing department. Again, it all depends on who the audience is.

On Swimlanes, Creately has some neat tricks that automatically glues shapes to swimlanes so you don’t miss them when resizing etc.

Decide on the start and end points of the flowchart

As trivial as it may sound, a flow with random endings is more confusing than it helps. So choose the objectives and keep it simple.

Break it down into multiple flows

Very long flowcharts can be very complex and tend to make the reader overlook details that you are actually trying to convey. It is best to break down a flowchart into sub-flows. Use the connector and inbuilt link feature to create automatically linked documents with sub-flows in Creately.

Use colors meaningfully

You can color code your flowchart objects to convey things like Risk involved, Who’s responsible, Process state (Draft/Final), basically anything you want. But always remember to include a legend on the corner so everyone knows how to read the chart.

Get your team on-board

Documenting processes or planning steps requires careful review and thinking. You can use Creately’s inbuilt collaboration features to help kick this process off easily.

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