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Standard Flowchart Symbols and Their Usage
Provides a visual representation of basic flowchart symbols and their proposed use in showing the sequence of process steps.
Five 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 online instructional
A typical flowchart from older Computer Science textbooks may have the following
kinds of symbols: Start, Process, Decision, Document and Sub Process.
Flowcharts may contain other symbols, such as connectors, usually represented
to represent converging paths in the flowchart. Circles
will have more than one arrow coming into them but only one
going out. Some flowcharts 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 units. A unit 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.
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.
See how to use these basic flowchart symbols instantly.
Flowchart Symbols and Their Usage
represents a step in your 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.
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.
indicates the starting of a process.
indicates the ending points of a process.
indicates that information is coming into
the process from outside, or leaving the process.
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.
Use this shape for a step that
results in information being stored.
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.
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).
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.
represents a user response
that directs the course flow from that point onwards, i.e., an online test
or questionnaire form.
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
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.
concludes the subroutines, such as when
the proper user id and password are verified, and documents where the user
re-enters the master flowchart.
documents the place within the master
flowchart where the process deviates into a subroutine.
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.
indicates that the next or
previous step is somewhere else on the flowchart. It is particularly useful
for large flowcharts.
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
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.
represents a step that results in a
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 workflow relationships are 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.
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