Adding (Organizational) Space and Time to Flow Charts

The horizontal dimension does not really represent anything (although we have a weak convention of "yes" to the left and "no" to the right out of decision nodes). We can impose on this dimension, then, our own interpretation. A common use of this is have the horizontal dimension represent "organizational space" — that is, different departments, divisions, or personnel. We create a column for each and then spread the parts of the flow chart out so we see what parts of the sequential process are carried out where.

This example shows a flow chart for making a coffee drink in a cafe.



We have the convention that the vertical (usually) dimension represents abstract time — actually only sequential order, what we might call "ordinal time." There's no reason we can't impose an interval scale on the vertical dimension and spread things out in terms of the time allotted or expected duration of tasks.



  1. Wikipedia articles on Flow Charts
  2. Flow Charts for Simple Tasks: Tutorial with exercises at Univ Plymouth, UK
  3. Flow Charts for Classification: Tutorial with exercises at Univ Plymouth, UK
  4. An overview by HCI consulting in Australia
  5. Human Subject Regulations Decision Charts at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)