This guide is brought to you by Zen Flowchart, the simplest flowchart maker.

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Introduction 

When it comes to flowchart rules, elements related to structures, shapes, orders, etc., are equally important. Since the flowchart diagrams represent a process or workflow, any improper use can lead to misunderstanding. 

A flowchart example
A flowchart example

For a better presentation with a flowchart, it is a must to know about the standards for flowcharts first. 

Basic Flowchart Rules 

To know how to make a flowchart, you must first learn several basic rules. In this guideline, there are four common rules you should bear in mind. 

Starting & Ending Points

It does not matter the content; a simple flowchart must include the starting and ending points. For this presentation, ellipses or rounded rectangles tend to be used. 

Actions in Flowchart

The rectangle shows an operation or action in the flow, playing as a sign of turning to the next step in the whole process. Also, the variables related to the actions will stand inside that rectangle.

Connectors and Arrows of Flowchart

The arrows in the chart present the workflow through processes. Besides, it helps to connect different processes. 

Readers can follow these arrows from the starting point, from top to bottom, from left to right, and then the ending one. With a manually-drawn diagram, the first step should be to edit both texts and shapes before adding the connectors. 

Common Elements

A diamond indicates the decision of the flow. Every specific condition (TRUE or FALSE, for example) must stand near the arrow which leads from the diamond shape. Additionally, several other conditionals, such as OR, also hit the same. 

Others

In terms of complicated flowcharts, there may be documents, databases, or manual operations. Readers can find these elements in a cylinder. 

Flowchart Symbols

The following list includes ten symbols commonly used in the flowchart, each of which bears different indications. 

Process Symbol

It is in the shape of a rectangle, also known as the action one. This one of the most widely-used signs represents an action, function, or business process. Each box of process icons can indicate a single step of the whole operation or an entire sub-process of the larger one. 

Start/End Symbol

It comes in an oval which readers can refer to as the terminator one as well. The shape represents both starting and ending points of the flow. Furthermore, it becomes useful to specify a potential outcome of the path in flowcharting. 

Document Symbol

The documents are always an indispensable part of any chart. They could be emails, files, orders, reports, and forms. This icon is also helpful to create a memo or a presentation. 

In a flowchart, readers can find single or even multiple icons of documents. Some examples for the use of this icon are items such as “reviewing the paperwork” and “creating an invoice”.  

Decision Symbol

A diamond shape represents a branching or decision point. It comes along with several lines which indicate different branches (also possible situations of the issue). All of them will lead to the sub-process of the flow. The number of branches depends on the question/issue from the beginning. 

Connector Symbol (On-page Reference)

The round shape plays as a matching icon, showing that the chart will continue with another document or point. In other words, it helps to connect all separate elements through the flow. 

flowchart symbols
Flowchart Symbols

Generally speaking, this connector icon is more common for complex flowcharts. 

Link Symbol (Off-page Reference)

Another symbol commonly used for the complex flows is the link or off-page reference one. It connects numerous points across multiple pages. The special feature is that these pages have their own numbers within the shape for easy reference. 

Input/Output Symbol (Data Symbol)

Readers can also call it the data icon. This shape has two main functions. One is to represent the data available for input and output, while the other relates to representation for resources generated or used in the flow. 

Annotation Symbol

This one often comes with context. The chart makers typically add it when they need to explain or leave comments.  

Delay Symbol

As the name implies, this symbol represents a delay segment in the process. Moreover, it becomes more helpful to indicate exactly how long the delay is within the shape. 

Flow Symbol

It is easy to identify with simple lines. This symbol helps represent both direction and sequence of the process. 

Guidelines Of Drawing A Flowchart

For a good design of flowcharts, there are some tips to apply. 

workflow diagram

Applying Consistent Styles

It means that all of the lines, shapes, and texts in a chart should come with a consistent style. In addition, the size of shapes, as well as the space within them should be the same. 

Keeping All Contents In One Page

When one page is not enough to represent the whole chart, readers will find it more difficult to follow. Hence, it would be better to make sure that the flowchart is readable on a single page. 

Flowing From Left To Right

Another tip to make the data much easier to read is the flow direction of representation. In other words, the chart structure should start from left to right and from top to bottom. 

Using The Split Path

The use of split paths helps to eliminate the confusion found with multiple directions of a diamond symbol. It continues the single process from left to right so that readers can understand the information without explanation. 

Adding Return Lines Under Diagram

The chart readers naturally follow the text from top to bottom of the page. Thus, it will be more logical to add return flow lines under rather than above the chart.