Getting things organized and visually coordinated are among the most important pursuits of many modern software applications, and the cloud is no stranger to programs geared towards making both work and play well-presented. Many such applications fail for any number of reasons, or are found suitable only for a narrow selection of users, but Visio competitor LucidChart has been gaining fans across various fields and disciplines for its fresh approach. The SaaS provider focuses on flowchart, wireframe, mockup, and process visualization capabilities.
Though less-than-ideally priced and lacking potentially fantastic integration features, LucidChart nevertheless has some fun and functional tools that businesses and individuals alike may appreciate.
Slipping into LucidChart
A certain amount of hassle is usually involved in acclimating to any new service, but LucidChart has put earnest effort into making this process as painless as possible, an effort that’s bound to pay off for new users. While many cloud computing utilities require various local installations to get started, LucidChart is based entirely online, and allows for swift sign-up. As should probably be expected from a service dedicated to mapping things out and making processes clearer, navigating through LucidChart’s interface is a pleasure, and there’s no intermediate knowledge or experience needed to get started on a project.
The overall design of LucidChart’s front-end is well done, with a minimalistic look and feel that helps users find various options and features without struggling through insider terminology or messy layout. Working with LucidChart’s basic capabilities may take some getting used to for those who haven’t spent much time with flowcharts and related visualizations in a digital format, but the ability to play around with various templates and customizations should provide ample orientation for most users. Without any obvious downsides to its design, LucidChart makes a strong case for the potential of its software to lend simplicity and workability to clients’ projects.
Getting to the Grit
Beyond LucidChart’s visual appeal is the core capability of the service, which aims to give users a personalized, collaboration-ready, and flexible way to look at processes and design structures. At first, the service seems to offer many different types of visualizations, from basic flowcharts to UML diagrams and beyond, but many of these features are simply permutations of the same organizational utility. Still, having various versions of visual mapping means that specialized professionals and individual users can complete their tasks in a context that makes sense specifically for their types of projects, a perk that earns the service several points for forethought.
Many of LucidChart’s visualization modules employ the shapes library, a collection of geometric bits and pieces that can be used to create items in charts and diagrams. Combined with the many templates available for putting designs together without going through most of the legwork, this library is a nice addition that helps keep projects looking organized and neat. The actual process of creating visualizations is well-organized, too; drag-and-drop functionality and live updating mean users can whip up a basic chart visible by clients, team members, or anyone else with an invitation in a few moments.
Served on the Side
Along with flowcharts, site and mind maps, business process and UML diagrams, org charts, and network layouts, LucidChart also offers modules for iPhone app mockups and website wireframes. App developers are likely to appreciate the service’s specialized demo functionality, which lets users tap into a library of interface functions and other elements to both organize an app project for personal use and to put together a smooth-looking prototype to show to potential clients. The site wireframe capability provides similar benefits to designers and coders, and can be linked with LucidChart’s site mapping feature to create well-rendered website planning documents.
With real-time updating during document creation, collaborating with others is relatively easy, and some membership levels offer revision history, large collaborator allowances, and other benefits to get more out of the service’s teamwork potential. Community template sharing and support are also nice extras that stand to help newcomers get started and make regular use a bit more convenient.
While many potential LucidChart users are likely to consider the service’s membership options fairly inexpensive, the limitations presented by lower levels may be too crippling to allow any but the most premium accounts achieve intended utility from the application. The free version goes so far as to limit the number of objects that can be incorporated into each chart or project, creating a significant obstacle for those who want to do more than just experiment with the service.
“Personal” and “Professional” levels of membership provide unlimited objects, but either limit the number of potential collaborators or stunt image and template availability. Users who want to regularly use LucidChart to create and store documents will likely need the highest-tier “Team” membership, as storage space may become an issue otherwise.
Professionals and individual users who get a lot of use out of LucidChart may well find the service worthy of its price, but for those only after occasional use, the membership scheme is likely to prove somewhat prohibitive. Of course, with a free trial of each membership level available, there’s at least a little room to maneuver before committing to a payment plan.
Though the service seems intent on billing itself as an application ideal for the healthcare, corporate fields, many of its most enthusiastic users hail from creative and computer-related areas, suggesting that LucidChart’s comfortable design has made a positive initial impression among those involved in related disciplines themselves. Bound to find a warm reception from wider audiences, LucidChart is worth looking into for those who are after a bit of superior organization, and who aren’t afraid to pay for it.
The power of brainstorming and similar visualizations is often stressed in education and in professional environments, and LucidChart helps optimize such tools to get teams on the same page and to clarify processes and layouts for individuals. Offering a well-realized set of tools for the cloud, LucidChart should be considered for the many opportunities it presents.
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