How to Create Visual Process Documentation and Guides

When we complete an important project or process, we always hope for the best results possible. But in the workplace and in life, things rarely go exactly as planned. In those cases, it is still important for us to be productive. Visual Process Documentation helps us do just that. Consider this example:

You’ve just finished designing a complex system to track your office’s productivity. Everyone is proud of you. Your boss even wants to give you a raise. In fact, you’ve done such a great job that she wants you to be in charge of managing the system. But what if you decide to take that vacation you’ve been planning? Or what if you have to call in sick for a day? Even though you’re away, someone still has to be in charge of managing the new system.

In comes Visual Process Documentation. With step-by-step reference guides and materials, the documentation is a very powerful resource to have for many reasons. Tools such as screenshots or quick how-to videos set you and your team for more immediate success. Let’s take a look at some useful information on the use of Visual Process Documentation. You’re in for a treat.

What is Process Documentation?

Kind of an important question. Process documentation is the creation of materials that show the steps and tools used to complete a task or project. Processes that may need to be completed several times should have documentation to make them easily repeatable. The combination of text and visuals in this context is what we call ‘Visual Process Documentation’.

What are some of the advantages of Visual Process Documentation?

Here is what you’re probably wondering: Why does Visual Process Documentation even matter to me? The quick answer is that Visual Process Documentation helps to make processes both better and easier. I think we can all agree that those are two pretty great things. Still, there are many ways in which Visual Process Documentation actually accomplishes both of these goals. I have included a few of those ways in this next section of this post.

Provides a reference guide for what expectations are for process results

Visual Process documentation helps to show what quality of results are expected to result from a process. The documentation shows one possible path geared towards to these goals. Still, this does not mean that the documented process is the only way to our desired result. Visual Process Documentation that lays out the procedures for a process makes it easier to see areas where our time or tools could be used more efficiently in the future.

Offers context for projects and processes

A process may include steps and procedures that apply only to an individual project. While future projects could share many of the same procedures, many things could also apply differently. Some of these differences may even be hard to notice from the outside looking in. Visual Process Documentation makes it easier to compare the circumstances that went into one process versus another process. Doing this helps to avoid mistakes that may result from applying one procedure to a process that it does not fit with.

Facilitates making training easier for new participants in a process

Visual Process Documentation helps eliminate many of the questions that a participant in a process may have. This is because most of those procedures will be directly addressed in the documentation.This allows extra time that would be spent training other people to be focused in other areas where attention may be needed. It’s all about smarter work, not harder work. Furthermore, what happens if the original participants of a project take on another role? Visual Process Documentation ensures that the project can still be completed even without presence of the person who documented the original process.

HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF A SCREENSHOT CREATED USING SNAGIT, WHICH CAN BE EXTREMELY HELPFUL IN VISUAL PROCESS DOCUMENTATION.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? These and many other advantages of Visual Process Documentation show how it can be a powerful tool to use in many dynamic ways. With these advantages in mind, now is a good time to introduce a few best practices that will help you get the most out of your documentation.

Best Practices

  • Be specific in how you phrase the procedures in your documentation so that you communicate your message accurately.
  • Document single every step needed to complete a process.Include nothing more and nothing less.
  • Be sure to include any policies or rules that must one must follow during the process.
  • Make sure to arrange both the text and visual parts of your documentation in a consistent manner, so that the order of your process is easy to follow. This article is helpful in how to start a documentation project.
  • Be sure to record the date of the creation of the original documentation , as well as any updates.
  • Use screen capture tools such as Snagit or others to create powerful visuals (screenshots, videos, flowcharts, etc.).This will allow the text of your procedures to be clearly organized.
  • For security purposes, store the documentation in a location where it is possible to control who has access to it.
  • Backup all files that go along with your Visual Process Documentation.

Wow. We’ve just covered a ton of stuff. In fact, you might feel like you need to catch your breath (I know I do). With that being said, I hope that this serves as a good overview on how Visual Process Documentation can expand the usefulness of the processes that you take part in.

Have a few other best practices? Suggestions for which kinds of visuals to use? We’d love to continue this discussion with you Facebook and Twitter– or leave a comment below!

Posted in Tips & How To's
Author
Jordan Woods

Eating, reading, and writing: in that order and often at the same time.
Favorite Quote: Potential has a shelf life.
Aspiring traveler, avid fan of sweaters...yes, sweaters.