I’ve always liked flowcharts, those handy little diagrams that help you understand a process or workflow. There’s a strong sense of satisfaction from carefully following the lines, answering the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, following more lines and then reaching a final box which offers advice, knowledge or a solution based on which lines you followed. However useful these charts are, they have never been easy to produce. I have lost countless hours trying to create them in Word, Excel and Publisher using a host of shapes that simply won’t line up or re-size to fit my text. I was therefore delighted when I recently came across Lucidchart, a very user-friendly online flowchart creator.
There are four different Lucidchart accounts, each offering different levels of service, and I took advantage of the 14-day free trial of the Pro account to familiarise myself with the site and to see what it is capable of. My trial has now elapsed and I’ve been moved onto the free account which is more than suitable for my teaching needs. The flowchart adjacent to this text was created in my free account in a matter of minutes.
The intuitive user interface allowed me to drag and drop shapes from a large library of chart shapes, text is very easily added (and shapes can be re-sized, to fit the text, by dragging them), colours and themes are easily applied and the arrows between shapes automatically ‘stick’ themselves to the next shape without effort. I was immediately impressed at the ease of the interface. OK – at first I did have to think carefully about layout and I changed my mind several times on which shapes to use but, other than these subjective issues, I found the whole chart creation process very easy to use.
If you are going to create a flowchart then it’s vital that it is clear, attractive and informative. If users can’t clearly follow the lines or there is a confusing layout then they run the risk of undertaking a similar process I often took when reading those frustrating 1980s and 1990s Choose Your Own Adventure books. I seemed to spend more time retracing my steps to see where I went wrong (I could never fathom why I spent more time outside UFO 54-40 in the book ‘Inside UFO 54-40′).
Do have a play with Lucidchart’s functionality and you’ll soon see how quickly and easily you can create charts and diagrams with this free piece of web-based software.