At the heart of flowcharting are its symbols. When traversing the well worn path of diagramming you are sure to have come across a variety of symbols that are at odds with each other. For instance, the terminator shape (or what is commonly known as the start/end symbol) is depicted as an oval and sometimes as a rounded rectangle. While there is no golden rule when it comes to flowcharting, make sure that your diagrams are infused with a sense of clarity. After all, diagramming is about visual solutions that are easy to comprehend and digest. Let this be the first thing you embrace before you start to draw.
Which flowchart to use?
Once you are clear on how you want to represent the solution to your problem, consider what type of flowchart you should use. While throughout the years there have been many pundits who have showcased different types of flowcharts, remember that there are four general types that are universally accepted. For the sake of clarity and to avoid confusion it is best that you try to match your problem to either of the following: Document flowcharts, Data flowcharts, System flowcharts or Program flowchart.
Drawing a flowchart
As a rule of thumb, flowcharts always start either from left to right or top to bottom. The reason for this is clarity. While flowcharts can be used to solve basic to complex problems, for the sake of simplicity let’s focus on a simple flowchart that utilizes the most basic and commonly used symbols.
While this really is a basic flowchart, there are a few important points that you do need to consider:
1. Make sure that you always have a title for your flowchart.
2. Sticking to one color is best (not always though) when it comes to flowcharts that are meant to be professional and not frivolous.
3. The circle that contains a letter depicts that this chart is linked to another chart elsewhere. This is something that is best avoided if possible, simply because it defeats the purpose of maintaining a diagram that is visually easy to digest.
While the rules that governed the art of flowcharting have become rather diluted in recent times, it is best that you stick to a few guiding principles. If you are compelled to stray into the unconventional, make sure that make a mention via a legend so that your readers understand what you are trying to portray.
Feel that you are looking for a diagram type that looks like a flowchart but isn’t one? Don’t fret; you’re probably after UML activity diagrams, which is another exciting continent in the world of diagramming.