Developer's Guide to Flow Charts
A flow chart is a pictorial representation of the steps needed to perform a task, in its exact order. A flow chart can also be called flowchart, process flowchart, functional flowchart, process map, process chart, functional process chart, business process model, process model, process flow diagram, workflow diagram, business flow diagram. The terms "flowchart" and "flow chart" can be interchanged.
Importance of flow chart
- breaking down complex algorithms
- helps team members understand the order in which a process follows
- creates a visual representation of the steps involved in a project
- helps document a process
Flow chart symbols
We will look at the five most used flow chart symbols
- Terminators: This symbol is oval-shaped and sometimes appear as a circle. It signifies the beginning or end of a process depending on where it appears.
- Data: This symbol takes the shape of a parallelogram. It signifies the input or output of data.
- Decision: This symbol has the shape of a rhombus or diamond. It shows that a decision needs to be taken, it branches out based on the outcome of the decision.
- Processes: This symbol can be a rectangle or square but mostly a rectangle. It shows the next step to be taken.
- Arrow: This symbol shows the direction of flow from one step to the other.
Sample flow chart
The sample flow chart shows the steps involve when a user tries to log in on a webpage.
Tools for creating a flow chart
These tools consist of a pen and paper to software tools that are free and some that are paid. Below are examples of some:
Flow chart best practices
To create a flow chart we should always keep it in mind to have it very simple and to be consistent. Some steps we can follow to achieve that includes
- Use standard symbols
- Make the text readable even if it means spanning your flow chart across many pages.
- Spacing between symbols, Colour schemes and symbol size should be consistent
- Flow direction should be top to bottom or left to right and never interchangeable
- While drawing a decision symbol, flow direction should be to the right for negative answers and downwards for positive answers.
- Never assume everyone knows what each symbol in your flow chart represent, use a key to describe each symbol and its meaning.
- Double-check the processes to ensure they are fully represented in the flow chart.