Standard Flowchart Symbols and Their Usage
Provides a visual representation of basic flowchart symbols and their proposed use in communicating the structure of a well-developed web site.
Basic Flowchart Symbols
Flowcharts are the ideal diagrams for visually representing
business processes. For example, if you need to show the flow of a custom-order
process through various departments within your organization, you can use a
flowchart. This paper provides a visual representation of
basic flowchart symbols and
their proposed use in communicating the structure of a well-developed web
site, as well as their correlation in developing on-line instructional
A typical flowchart from older Computer Science textbooks may have the following
kinds of symbols: Start, End, Process, Arrow, input and output.
Flowcharts may contain other symbols, such as connectors, usually represented
to represent converging paths in the flow chart. Circles
will have more than one arrow coming into them but only one
going out. Some flow charts may just have an arrow pointing to
another arrow instead. These are useful to represent an
iterative process (in Computer Science this is called a
loop). A loop may, for example, consists of a connector where
control first enters, processing steps, a conditional with
one arrow exiting in the loop, and one going back to the
connector. Off-page connectors are often used to signify a
connection to a (part of a) process held on another sheet or
A flowchart is described as "cross-functional" when the
page is divided into different "lanes" describing the control of different
organizational chart units. A symbol appearing in a particular "lane" is within
the control of that organizational unit. This technique allows the analyst to
locate the responsibility for performing an action or making a decision
correctly, allowing the relationship between different organizational units with
responsibility over a single process.
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Standard Flowchart Symbols
Flowcharts use special shapes to represent different types of actions or steps in a process. Lines and arrows show the sequence of these steps, and the relationships between them.
Start and end
symbols, represented by lozenges, ovals or rounded rectangles, usually contain the word "Start" or
"End", or another phrase signaling the start or end of
a process, such as "submit enquiry" or "receive
Arrows show what's
called "flow of control" in computer science. An arrow
coming from one symbol and ending at another symbol
signifies flow passes to the symbol the arrow
Processing steps are represented by rectangles. Examples: "Add 1 to X";
"replace identified part"; "save changes" or similar.
Input/Output are represented by a parallelogram. Examples: Get X from the
user; display X.
Conditional (or decision) is represented by a diamond (rhombus). These
typically contain a Yes/No question or True/False test.
This symbol is unique in that it has two arrows coming
out of it, usually from the bottom point and right
point, with one corresponding to Yes or True, and the other one
corresponding to No or False. The arrows should always
be labeled. More than two arrows can be used, but this
is normally a clear indicator that a complex decision is
being taken, in which case, it may need to be broken-down
further, or replaced with the "pre-defined process"
A number of other symbols that
have less universal currency, such as:
represented by a rectangle with a wavy base;
represented by a rectangle, with the top irregularly
sloping up from left to right. An example would signify data-entry from a form;
represented by a trapezoid with the longest parallel
side upmost, to represent an operation or adjustment
to process that can only be made manually.
represented by a cylinder
Workflow relationships are where work is done by
different departments in a fixed sequence. This means that one department needs
to finish its job before work can continue in another department. The
development and maintenance of these work flow relationships is very important
for managers because they depend on the preceding areas for his or her
own work, and responsible for managers and workers at different stages further
down the chain.
Audit Flowchart Shapes
The following shapes are similar to the basic flowchart symbols but are specially
used in the audit flowchart.
The Flowchart Symbols and Their Usage
Process represents a step in your process.
Predefined process indicates a set of steps that
combine to create a sub-process that is defined elsewhere, often on another page
of the same drawing.
Decision indicates a
point where the outcome of a decision dictates the next step. There can be
multiple outcomes, but often there are just two - yes and no.
Terminal points indicates the starting and ending points of a process.
Data shape indicates that information is coming into
the process from outside, or leaving the process.
Delay shape represents a waiting period where no
activity is done. In Process Mapping, delays are often important as they may
result in adding to the cost of the product or simply delaying its production.
Database shape: Use this shape for a step that
results in information being stored.
Step represents a single step within a process,
and usually contains the name of a specific action.
Page symbols refer to individual web pages, which
may or may not contain multiple elements.
File symbols represent those data elements that
exist independently of navigational properties outside of that page, e.g.,
audio sounds, movie clips, or a portable document file (PDF).
A decision point indicates a sequence in the process
at which the end user chooses an option, i.e., a "yes-no", or "true-false"
response, and then branches to different parts of the flowchart.
Arrows and connecting lines diagram the logical
progression through the course, subject to the choices made at decision or
action points within the process.
The input/action symbol represents a user response
that directs the course flow from that point onwards, i.e., an online test
or questionnaire form.
Represents the choice made by the user from mutually
exclusive options, e.g., a student choosing among different lesson plans.
Conditional selector is similar to the conditional
branch except that the user has the option to choose from a number of paths
that will fulfill the requested conditions, e.g., the results of a search
Pages that share one or more common aspects, and are
functionally identical may be simplified as a rounded corner rectangle, such
as an on-line test or feedback form.
Annotations provide helpful comments or
explanations, e.g. denoting the location where an undeveloped new
page/process will fit into the navigational flow structure, or notes for
specific team members for further development.
Flow references and flow areas are symbols for
reusable sequences, such as logging in with a specific user id and password
to enter the course or to initiate an on-line quiz. The flow reference
symbol acts as a placeholder for the flow area sequence in the chart in
every situation in which it is repeated.
Flow area is used as a flow area. It documents
sections that share similar components/repeated steps within that flow, and
requires the use of the following two symbols: entry and exit points.
Exit point concludes the subroutines, such as when
the proper user id and password are verified, and documents where the user
re-enters the master flowchart.
Entry point documents the place within the master
flowchart where the process deviates into a subroutine.
Reference is used as a connecting point when the
flowchart necessitates using more than one page, or refers to a complicated
subroutine that would be impossible to contain on the main flowchart page.
On-page reference indicates that the next or
previous step is somewhere else on the flowchart. It is particularly useful
for large flowcharts.
Off-page reference use
a set of hyperlinks between two pages of a flowchart or between a
sub-process shape and a separate flowchart page that shows the steps in that
Flowchart Shapes: The designers can click this
multi-shape to set to any of the following shapes: Data, Document, Decision, or
Process. Any text you type onto the shape, or information you add to its Shape
Data, remains with the shape.
Document represents a step that results in a
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