Gantt charts do take a while getting used to, there's no doubt about it. Most of my experience with them has been with Microsoft Project, which is very good at what it does.
One of the things about gantt charts, though, is that they require a considerable amount of upfront planning. This kind of planning requires you to know the details of all tasks and subtasks involved in your project, how long they take, any dependencies, and so on. Because of this, they're not so ideal for projects that need to embrace flexibility. Projects in industries like software and design and marketing often involve after-the-fact changes and aren't as suited to using gantt charts.
I'm a huge MS Excel fan, so if I wanted to design something as an alternative to a Gantt chart, it'd probably be in Excel. One of the advantages of Excel would be that many people already have it installed, so if you need to share your info then they're less likely to have problems viewing it and probably won't need to learn a new tool (as they might with something like MS Project). So designing a spreadsheet to illustrate what it is you're doing is another option. I have seen different ways people have done this, ranging from a detailed 'task tracker' to a gantt chart lookalike.
Yet another option is to produce a combination of products to turn the project information into something that your project stakeholders can understand. So use things like flowcharts, charts/graphs, task lists, network diagrams, and so on to convey the information.
At the end of the day, what you use really depends on what you're trying to achieve. In most cases what project managers want to be able to do is to share information about their project in a way stakeholders can understand. If you're wanting to do the same thing, then use whatever works for you.
If you feel your project is complex enough to warrant a gantt chart, then persisting with it is well worth it.