Getting away from the computer: Communicating visually

Here at inoutput we like to step away from the computers and explore the use of diagrams and drawings to communicate our software ideas to clients.

Visual communication is a much more engaging and straightforward way to convey complex software concepts. 

What does communicating visually mean?

Seen the phrase “TL;DR”? Slang for “Too long; didn’t read”, it’s commonly used to refer to wordy explanations in discussion posts on the internet. With 140 character tweets, concise one-liners, gifs and memes the norm these days, it’s apparent that people are responding to clearer and simpler ways of communicating.

This is where the concept of communicating visually comes in – visual representations of otherwise data-heavy information are used to convey ideas, plans and projects.

How can you communicate visually?

Here at inoutput we like to mix it up and use a variety of visual communication techniques to engage our clients and help them to understand how we work.

Programming can be tricky to grasp, so flow charts, visual sitemaps and diagrams of how we build an app, the back end of a system or a new software program can be the best way to explain their inner workings.

Certain things just can’t be communicated in a long and wordy document, so a visual tool such as a whiteboard where you can draw a visual sitemap are very handy.

Other options we’re fond of here at inoutput? Annotated screenshots (simply cut and paste into the body of an email) and Kanban boards – either the physical or the software variety.

Kanban boards use a series of ‘lanes’ to represent progress on certain projects. Project management software such as Trello uses a similar methodology to Kanban boards. Simply click and drag project items to place them in their relevant production phase, and see where everyone is at. The items can even be colour-coded to represent the person assigned to the project or to indicate which client the project belongs to.

Drawings and diagrams are some other ways we choose to communicate with our clients visually, and annotated screenshots and videos are particularly great for communicating user stories and complex software concepts. 

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The benefits of communicating visually

The beauty of communicating visually is that you can really drill down to the simplest components of a software project and this is what people really like to understand.

It’s a great opportunity to get away from the usual word documents, workflows and CRM tools and embrace a more creative way to express an idea or project.

Communicating visually usually forces you to keep things straightforward – visual techniques make explaining concepts easy to understand and it means presentations can be simplified as complex information can be presented very simply in visual form through graphs, diagrams or flowcharts.

At inoutput, communicating visually gives us the opportunity to present intricate software details in a concise and uncomplicated manner. Some of our clients don’t want (or need) to know about the various terms of reference we use, so visual tools like wireframes to communicate software architecture can be monumental in bridging the divide. It allows us to cut the jargon and highly technical explanations and create understanding for our clients. 

But you don’t need to work in software development to benefit from using drawings and diagrams. Many people process information better if it’s presented visually rather than as a huge slab of text, and some studies show people are more likely to retain the information if it’s communicated visually, too.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.