If you were to hold the edge of your hand across your throat, just under your chin, that would be the “here” I’ve had it up to with the infographic craze.
I know I’m not alone.
But I’m not here to rant… I’m here to help.
Because people just freaking love the damn things and if you want to get in on the action, it’s easier than ever. It’s also easy to create stupid, lame infographics.
There is a very good reason for displaying information in a visual format: because it conveys understanding more powerfully than any other format such as text, video or audio. You’re welcome to disagree with me on this, but I’m of the opinion that any other reason for an infographic isn’t good enough.
You know why people create charts and graphs? Because that’s the best way to instantly understand changes and measurements taken for a set of data.
So let’s talk about how to create the perfect infographic:
1. Accompany your infographic with text
Infographics have no text which can be electronically read, which is bad for SEO and tends to piss off blind people.
At least, not yet. So unless you create a correct title (as in the HTML title tag), permalink, headline and body text, your infographic will score a big fat SEO zero. On the plus side, if it gets shared a lot, it won’t create a duplicate content issue.
There are millions (PDF document) of blind people and others with some kind of impared vision. Because of the efforts of these people and their advocates, we have laws in the United States and elsewhere in the world that regulate how certain things like buildings and webpages are to be constructed. These laws may not actually apply to you, but it’s been the consensus among conscientious web designers & developers that web content be as accessible as possible. One of the big no-no’s was text within images. And what is an infographic? Often it’s text within images… just what blind people LOVE.
Here’s where the delicious irony part comes in: if you can present all the information in your infographic as text and provide alongside infographic… then maybe you didn’t need to have an infographic in the first place. Not always… but maybe. Something to think about.
Lastly, translation software can’t read infographics, either. So there goes anyone who doesn’t speak your language as well as all the visually impaired and SEO.
So when you post your infographic, be sure to give it context by including relevant text information in your post: Good for SEO, good for the visually impaired and it’s able to be electronically translated.
2. Your infographic must have charts or graphs
I avoid broad statements that use words like “never” and “always.” But remember when above I asked the question: why do people create charts and graphs? The answer (for those of you suffering from short-term memory loss) is that they are the best way to convey certain kinds of information. If the data you’re working with can’t be displayed somehow as a chart or graph, you’d really have to question why you’re bothering with an infographic in the first place (probably it’s just because everyone else is doing it, and we all know leaders do what everybody else does, right?).
If you want to show trends over time or some other kind of change, or you want to visually show categories of data so that viewers can instantly make comparisons and understand your point at a glance, then charts and graphs (and by extension, infographics) are the way to go.
If your infographic is just a bunch of fancy font text and vector clip-art from a stock image site, as far as I’m concerned you’re likely doing it wrong.
You want examples? Here ya go. How to do it right, presented by the U.S. Census: Then and Now – 1940 and 2010. Now that’s an infographic. That information would not be as compelling if it were just text. The charts really drive home the differences between the two datasets.
Here’s good example is: Is Technology Racist? At first glance there’s still too much “info” (boring text) and not enough “graphic.” However, when you look at the chart that shows the disparity between whites and people of color, the impact is immediate because you understand it at a glance. Well done!
And racism (especially when it’s revealed among a group of people who don’t consider themselves racist) is a hot-button issue that gets reactions and gets shared. Again, well done.
3. Your infographic needs to be vertically linear
Infographics are meant to be vertically long and vertically scrolled. What you get out of this experience as a viewer is that as you scroll down, more information is revealed which, ideally, builds to an ultimate effect. But if your infographic lacks continuity and forces the viewer to scroll up and down repeatedly to follow along, you blew it.
Think of it like a vertical timeline (Facebook says hi). The top of the infographic is the beginning of your “story,” the bottom is the end. How do you want the story you’re telling with your infographic to end? What’s the punchline? The call to action?
What would you say?
These are only three tips. Surely, there are more. What has your experience been with using infographics? Do you have any tips to share? Pitfalls to avoid? Let us know in the comments and share this post with your friends so they can chime in, too.