How to make a swimlane flowchart

Do you need to spec out a feature that involves multiple teams?

A swimlane flowchart may be the perfect way to visualize the ask.

Building this type of chart is very easy if you use LucidChart because they already have a template. 

Here's a non-technical example of a swimlane chart, to demonstrate how burrito-ordering works.

Built using LucidChart

Built using LucidChart

This swimlane splits up kitchen (think: backend), front-of-house (think: frontend) and customer (think: user). 

Using this visual methodology, we can clearly see what each team needs to do and how it affects the overall feature. 

Here's a swimlane I made several years ago for a voice command feature for a watch remote for a tv app.

Note: I've removed some of the detailed steps to simplify it for this example. 

Some advice on creating a swimlane chart: 

  • Before you start, decide which tool you're going to use. Like I've mentioned before, I use LucidChart - not because it's the best tool out there, but because I've used it for years, I'm familiar with it, and it gets the job done.
  • Have the steps mapped out before you start working on the swimlane. This could be in the form of a single-lane flowchart.
  • Diamonds are decisions, ovals are terminators. There are also specified shapes for databases, processes, predefined processes... most tools will have a key to let you know what to use where.