While we chose Microsoft’s Visio as our overall best flowchart software for small businesses in 2016; we recognize that it won’t be the right choice for every business. The two biggest hang ups are the pricing structure which while not insanely expensive in its own right – it really does require that you purchase an Office 365 subscription to get the most from it – and the fact that it lacks support for non-Windows devices.
Our best value flowchart software for small business in 2016 is Lucidchart and it addresses both of the issues we had with Visio.
Why Did We Choose Lucidchart?
As with all of our best software choices there wasn’t a single criteria for choosing Lucidchart but rather a bunch of them including:
Lucidchart hasn’t been established as long as Microsoft has, unsurprisingly. However, it has been up and running since 2008 as a business and the first software launch of Lucidchart took place in 2010 which makes it well-established in software industry terms.
It was very well received at launch and caught the attention of all the major tech press. The business raised more than $1 million in seed funding back in 2011 and that gives us confidence that investors saw the long-term potential of this company too.
Value for Money
We find it pretty annoying that most office packages aren’t including flowchart creation software as standard. In a process driven business world the need to develop flowcharts is a must in nearly every business and tech companies, in particular, are going to create a ton of flowcharts. However, as the office environment is as it is – for the moment you’re probably going to have to pay for flowchart software if you want to create flowcharts in significant numbers.
While you can create a flowchart in PowerPoint – it’s a clumsy and counter-intuitive process. Fine for once a year but not OK for regular use at all. Visio’s, our best flowchart software for small businesses in 2016, license fee is a reasonable $13 a month but if you’ve got a team of 20-30 people using Visio – that soon adds up.
Lucidchart, on the other hand, starts at $4.95 a month for a single user and even 100 users is only $600 a month; that’s a lot cheaper than Visio. The good news is that while Lucidchart isn’t integrated into Microsoft Office as Visio is – you do not have to compromise on functionality if you choose Lucidchart over Visio.
Ease of Use and Functionality
Lucidchart is an online tool and it’s important to remember this if you’re frequently without internet because while there is offline support – it’s not really the best way to work. Having said this – the Lucidchart interface is among the most user friendly flowchart creators that we’ve tested and it’ s very much on a par with Visio.
The UI is basically drag and drop and you pull shapes into space and then enter text in them as you do in Visio. The features that are best in Lucidchart are as follows:
- Apple support. Lucidchart provides an Apple app interface and is completely compatible with Mac.
- Clean up. We love this. You click a button and the software automatically neatens up the diagram evening out spaces, shapes, etc. and making it much less awkward to look at. We’d like to see this feature in other packages too.
- Multi-page support. If you create huge diagrams; you can easily create additional pages to support the overall flow of you diagram and this is done through the use of an automatic function – so you don’t have to keep messing about with menus as your diagram grows.
- Org chart support. If you’ve already got your org chart data in Excel – you can import it as a CSV file into Lucidchart and auto-create your organizational hierarchy diagram. This is a nice touch that other packages didn’t offer.
- Real-time collaboration. There are advantages of working online and one of those is being able to work on a diagram with other members of your team – all at the same time.
- Sharing. Lucidchart’s actually better than Visio for this. Not only can you do all the real-time sharing and working together in a team but it’s really simple to share stuff with external parties (like clients and suppliers) and unlike Visio, the Lucidchart viewing software lets those parties comment and edit the charts you share too.
- Templates. Lucidchart offers more templates than Visio – 100 or so to Visio’s 80. We’re not sure that anyone will use them all so this may or may not be a big deal – it depends on the charts you want to create. A big plus is that Lucidchart supports Gantt chart creation – so no need to buy MS Project.
We’re were reasonably impressed by the customer support offerings from Lucidchart. While we recognize that there’s a learning curve for new software and it’s useful to be able to shout for help if things go wrong – we also think that LucidChart’s so self-explanatory that you won’t need very much help either.
There are online tutorials to help you get to grips with things, user forums and a blog so that you can connect with other users and see what’s going on and get help. You may also use the LiveChat function to get a human being in support.
However, Lucidchart’s phone support is restricted to businesses which have subscribed to their (more expensive) Enterprise plan.
Drawbacks to Using LucidChart
Lucidchart’s biggest drawback is the lack of telephone support. It’s something we empathize with based on the low price point but it may be a deal breaker for those businesses that like to be able to talk to someone when they’re stuck or things go wrong. The Live Chat facility isn’t bad though and does compensate for this slightly.
Lucidchart also, just like Visio, doesn’t support Android though unlike Visio it does offer support for Apple which is a good step in the right direction.
If you’re looking for flowchart software on a budget – you can do much worse than Lucidchart.