Currently, we have access to numerous applications and programs for our studies or works. To name a few, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Powerpoint are the main ones that we are familiar with. Without a doubt, these applications are incredible tools that we use to perform countless tasks ranging from writing an essay to building a financial model with Excel Macro functions. There are amazing online platforms that we use for a variety of tasks as well, such as WordPress that we blog for #IS6621.
And the best part about these programs is that they are free to use with our current status as students. Although some are costly, we enjoy many of these tools for free just by being students. However, these tools are not cure-all for every task or challenge we face. As technology rises at an unprecedented speed, almost every business needs some form of online platform to show its presence in the digital atmosphere. Yet, the cost for a website development is extraordinarily high, and it’s not an easy investment especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to consider. Also, there is so much data available these days, and extracting key information from a huge pool of data is becoming increasingly important. Visualization is key for successful storytelling and marketing, and the need for a tool for visual illustration has been rising. The same concept applies to website designing (Apple is a great example for a clear, simple design with effective visualization). Yet, designing a website or making a visual diagram to illustrate a business scenario are not easy to perform on typical programs and applications we are familiar with, and many of the professional tools are quite costly and complicated to use (which is the reason why there are web developers and coders who perform these tasks for those in need).
This is where Lucidchart comes in. It’s an online app (a website) specifically designed for diagramming and visualization with simple steps that an average tech layman can digest within an hour or two. For non-student users, it costs $4.95 per month, and there are options for free trial with some limited access to its services. But for students, it’s entirely free! And considering the extreme cost for web designing programs and visualization tools (just for comparison, Adobe photoshop costs $120, and the cost to ask a well-functioning website for a web developer easily exceeds thousands of dollars), $5 per month is almost nothing. In addition, Lucidchart is not simply limited to building a framework of a website (wireframing). It offers a library of numerous shapes and images of major softwares such as UML (Unified Modeling Language) and UI mockups to illustrate diagrams and visuals for digital platforms on those softwares. It even offers shapes and illustrating tools for Android and iOS (iPhone) as well.
Lucidchart main page; shown documents are some of the assignments I worked on for a different ISYS course
Well, why do these tools make Lucidchart special? Aren’t there many free web designing platforms out there? There is an online app called Wix, and it might be even better than Lucidchart for web designing specifically. However, what makes Lucidchart special is its capability of offering mockups & tools for many well-known softwares such as UI or UML that are commonly used by many businesses. The variety of images, tools and shapes Lucidchart offers is tremendous, and its capability of implementing visualization for widely-known softwares and relational diagrams for businesses makes it a phenomenal tool.
This image shows Lucidchart’s library of diagramming and visualizing tools
Also, as mentioned earlier, it’s easy to use. You can simply make a new document as if you were using Microsoft Word or Excel, click the desired list of shapes from its library, and drag the shape you want to use for a particular design. For my information systems course called Systems Analysis & Design, we had a recent assignment to wireframe (make a framework for a website) a website for a junk pick-up ordering system, and Lucidchart was used to build the framework of my junk pick-up website. I also made a class diagram to demonstrate cardinality relationship between different entities within the junk pick-up ordering process and a use case model to illustrate the overall steps of the process for each actor. Amazingly, it was possible to perform all three of those tasks on Lucidchart, and although it was a pain to finish the assignment, I was amazed by the shapes and images Lucidchart could accommodate for many different purposes.
On this blank sheet, one can simply drag the shapes listed on the left side to wireframe or build a diagram
However, Lucidchart is not a perfect tool. Although it is easy to use, it does not have the capability of building a functioning website with limitations in testing out desired outcomes or functions of a particular website. For instance, on my junk pick-up ordering website, I could not fill in the details that I created for any user to type in their information, register for an account, and eventually submit a junk pick-up order. I can design the website to do so, but there is no way for me to actually test if an edited information gets updated properly, or an order is submitted as requested. One can make several pages for the user to go back and forth (such as a login page, address page, payment page, and confirmation page for the order), but it cannot check whether a certain information was filled in correctly. Lucidchart’s limitation is that it only offers visualization and diagramming without any functionality. If one seeks to have a beautiful illustration with great functionality, that’s where web developers come in and perform serious coding for the website creation. Just like WordPress is not a platform for an academic journal, Lucidchart is meant for visualization and diagramming purpose, nothing more or less.
The main page for my junk pick-up ordering website. As you can see on the top left corner, there is a welcome message “Welcome, John Doe!” You can press the “Edit Profile” button and move to the “Edit Personal Detail” page shown in the bottom. However, the user can’t not only make any edits on the page (unless you are the website developer) but also change the name “John Doe” to “Jo Oh.”
The Edit Personal Detail page on my website. Even though the text boxes look nice, the user cannot actually fill this out to implement any changes on the website.
Regardless of its limitations, Lucidchart is still a cheap, easy-to-use, and effective visualization tool that superbly fulfills its purpose. If anyone is seeking a cost-efficient way to demonstrate a business problem or relationship with a diagram, or build a framework of an online platform or website, Lucidchart would be a wonderful tool to kickstart his or her goal. Please leave any questions or comments below if you are curious about anything; I’d be happy to discuss. I hope this blog post serves as a learning opportunity for you to explore a different illustration tool other than Microsoft Powerpoint for diagramming or wire framing.
Pretty good rating from many reviews, and this is just an example.
Thanks for reading.