What is a Visual Workflow? Examples and Benefits
One of the most exciting things about Make is how it allows you to build visual workflows, and actually see the apps, data, and conditions involved in their functioning.
Visual workflows are built on Make’s builder (aka visual canvas), and represent one of the defining characteristics of the platform.
Technical and non-technical users can build simple and complex visual workflows with Make - either from scratch or by using an automation template - and automate their way into more productive, less strenuous work.
But what are visual workflows in the first place?
The term is so deeply ingrained in Make that it’s easy to forget that most people are not familiar with it.
Today, we are here to change that. In this article, we will go over all there is to know about visual workflows and provide you with definitions, examples, and thoughts about the visual-first approach to workflows, app integrations, and automation.
What is a visual workflow?
A visual workflow is a process that enables the user to build a sequence of tasks with a visual-first approach, and execute it by passing data from one task to another.
You can think of a visual workflow as a road with stops. Imagine that you are traveling from point A to point Z, with stops on points B, C, and D. Each stop represents a task that needs to be completed in order to get you to your destination.
In the context of Make, these sequences of tasks are executed automatically by one or more apps connected together.
The act of connecting these apps together is done through the platform’s visual builder, and the automatic execution is determined by parameters the user defines.
What is the difference between visual workflows and “regular” workflows?
Visual and regular workflows are different in two aspects:
How do you build them
How the resulting workflow is displayed
Regular workflows can be built by means of text inputs, code, or even informally and without a notation method in place.
Visual workflows, on the other hand, are built on platforms like Make, where you define and see each step of the workflow, the parameters that rule it, and (in the case of Make), the data moving in real-time through the workflow.
What are some visual workflow examples?
You can see thousands of visual workflow examples in our template section. As long as data is moving from one place to another and you can see the tasks, apps, or elements that compose the workflow, you’ll be staring at a visual workflow.
Popular examples of visual workflows include:
Needless to say, these are automated visual workflows. Once active, they work on their own, performing the task that they were created for.
What are the benefits of using visual workflows?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this applies to visual workflows as well.
As for benefits, let’s start with the obvious: A better user experience.
It’s far easier to create a visual workflow than a non-visual one. Seeing the steps, actions, and structure of a workflow through simple visual elements is more user-friendly than reading a chunk of code or going through a list-based interface.
Features like drag-n-drop, point-and-click, and auto-align contribute to a superior user experience when it comes to building workflows with a visual-first approach.
Second, visual workflows have a lower barrier of entry for non-technical users.
Using text or syntax to define the steps of a workflow can be challenging for users that lack a technical background.
On the other hand, platforms like Make offer thousands of endpoints, functions, and data operators that only require you to understand the underlying concepts, and then add what your workflow needs by pointing and clicking.
Third, visual workflows are easier to modify, share, and replicate.
It’s easier to make changes to a workflow when you can clearly see the elements that compose it at first look.
In addition, a workflow that is easy to understand is also easy to share and replicate, saving users time and resources that otherwise would get lost in lengthy explanations.
How to create visual workflows using Make
The only mandatory step to start creating visual workflows on Make is creating an account (and yes, it can be a free one).
Once you have an account, all you need to do is go to your dashboard, click on “Create a new scenario”, and start creating.
You will land on the platform’s visual canvas, which is where the magic happens.
In case you want some guidance, we highly recommend you join the Make Community. On top of tips and use cases, you'll be able to consult with seasoned professionals and get answers on the spot.
There are resources for all kinds of users, from beginners to advanced.
Tips for success when creating visual workflows
The two basic tips we can share in regard to creating visual workflows are pretty straightforward:
First, learn how to use your tool of choice to create visual workflows.
Whether it’s Make or another tool, make sure you understand the basic functionalities of it (you can learn this on the go as well).
Second, identify what you need to accomplish with the workflow.
Let’s not forget that visual workflows are still workflows, and building for aesthetics alone isn’t gonna get you far in terms of automation and productivity.
If you are unsure about where to start, we recommend this blog post, in which automation expert James Rose shares his advice on what to automate first.
Visual workflows are gaining popularity thanks to tools like Make, which makes it easy to build, understand, and implement them at every imaginable level.
In the past, it was difficult, lengthy, and expensive to create workflows, let alone visual ones. Nowadays, it’s something most people can do in minutes, and for a fraction of what it used to cost just a few years ago.
But most importantly, creating visual workflows represents a user-friendly way of bringing ideas to life.