I’m not a big fan on spending an inordinate amount of time on diagramming solutions or concepts down to the nth detail primarily because that level of detail will always, always, always change and you will be left with outdated diagrams that when someone goes to look at what they are will be confused.
I am a big fan of drawing out ideas on the whiteboard though (big fan) and do realize that these diagrams have their place in getting people on board to adopt a solution.
Hence, keys to putting together an Architecture Diagram that people will get behind.
- Make it Simple – if your diagram is overly complex with icons all over the place, simplify it, break it into multiple diagrams. If you can’t understand it and describe what is going on in it then it’s too much.
- Lines don’t Cross – DBAs go crazy over this, but in anything you do, try not to have lines crisscrossing every other way. A line is a communication concept, one talks to the other, if you start putting lines through it, it gets confusing. Think of describing a phone call to someone, would you tell them it gets interrupted fourteen times while the call is going on but that it will still work? Probably not.
- Use a consistent set of icons – you don’t need 78 stencils and 5 representations of the same thing, your users will get lost. Use simple icons that describe what the object is (or use a legend) and re-use them. Translation: Don’t use a cow to describe a class (unless it’s a class cow).
- Colors are good but don’t overdo it – no one needs to have a seizure when they open up your file.
- Boundaries are Good – I’m surprised how many people don’t do this in diagrams. They have a bunch of “things” that are all related but don’t group them to show that they are together, instead users have to infer the relationships by following the lines. Grouping is good, the grouping is your friend (plus it makes it easier to move things around).
The common theme through it all is simple, if you can keep it simple, people will buy what you are selling, if you over complicate it, they will close their tablets before you even begin talking. Diagrams are the best way to get people on board and get them to read your document that is coming up next.
Get them excited, get them interested, don’t lose them in the translation.