I'm designing a new workflow system in my company. Currently it's a module developed in an old framework that draws a entity relationships diagram, such as this:

Diagram currently in a production environment

Thing is, we need to look into another way of displaying this information in another way, as there are too many many-to-many relationships, consequently drawing too many arrows to actually have a clear understanding of what's going on.

I'm looking into other possibilities, but I can't seem to find a good alternative. The key needs are:

  • Many-to-many relationships
  • Relationships may advance from the first column to the second, connect a first-column entity to another first-column entity, come back from third to second columns...
  • Clear visualisation of the relationships (arrows)

Any thoughts of where I should look into? Thanks!


2 Answers 2


It seems to me that having Straight edged relation lines would be more clear. enter image description here

You could signalize direction, apart from arrows, also with color (LTR easy Green, RTL easy red, same column relations dotted line).

At your case I think extracting one entity relation functionality would provide even clearer insight. Please see below similiar functionality from GA Interface where second entity in first column is extracted.

enter image description here

  • Thanks xul :) I'm looking into possible ways of isolating a focused element (i.e. clicking on it) so the user could see the relationship of said element solely. The arrow arranging sounds right, my only concern is with column 1 to column 3 (or 3 to 1) elements, I don't want arrows crossing the entire diagram. Maybe with U-shaped arrows starting from the opposite direction?
    – xabi_sides
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 11:08

Have a look at Google Analytics Behavior Flow

It does a few things that could be helpful

  • Many to many relationships
  • Highlighting relationships from and to a selected page
  • Size of elements is based on importance (traffic in this case)
  • Less important elements will be hidden in a "see more" link (not in this image)

google analytics behavior flow

  • Thanks! My main concern is that with this flow I don't know how I should represent a returning (same column or backwards) relationship, if it's possible at all. If I'm understanding correctly this diagram represents a sort of a timelined/step-based/sequenced diagram. The one I need is not necessarily sequential. I like the grouping of elements, though, will look into it to see if this can fit in our interests.
    – xabi_sides
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 11:05

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