6 Reasons Why I Won’t Look at Your Infographic

By , November 13th, 2012 in Content Marketing | 26 comments
wont look at your infographic
Oh the horror… Another #&%$@*# infographic!

Presenting information visually is an old technique and now it’s easier than ever to share those visualizations with the world. Everyone wants to publish an infographic and some of them are, quite frankly, lame!

And there are so many out there that some readers have infographic fatigue? How do you make sure your infographic passes the ‘so what?’ test and is something readers will view and share? Check out these tips.

1. Create a Strong Intro

Leading with impact is not just important for written content, but for visual content too. Newspapers place the most important information in the first couple of sentences. In terms of images, that means sticking a compelling image right at the top. Your infographic needs some pizzazz if it’s to hold people’s attention for more than a couple of seconds. Don’t just use any old image; The image must relate to the theme of your infographic. Cap this with a great title so everyone knows what to expect. This infographic on Google+ grabs you right from the get-go with a powerful image and intro.

2. Use an Attractive Color Scheme

Once you have readers’ attention, they will look at the rest of the infographic but it’s easy to lose their interest if the colors don’t work. If colors are too dull, readers may ignore the content; if they are too bright, they will need sunglasses to look at it (and let’s face it, that would be ridiculous). Work with your infographic designer to choose colors that are eye-catching without being garish – which make it easy to see the text and images that make up the infographic as in the Twitter infographic below. Check out these color palette resources to help get you started.

twitterusers-560
Click for full-size image

3. Create a Good User Interface

Reading an infographic is a bit like browsing a website – there is stuff to look at everywhere and the reader needs guidance on where to go. There are a lot of different ways to do this. For example, you could:

  • Distinguish between different types of facts with color and shape.
    Put key takeaways in boxes of one shape, with interesting facts in boxes of another, using different colors for each. This visual signposting makes it easy for the reader to figure out how to use the infographic.
  • Use lines and arrows to lead people.
    Make it super clear where to go next by adding directional cues to different areas, such as in a timeline style infographic.
Click for full-size image
  • Make it scanable. Segment different parts of the infographic with alternating colored boxes or backgrounds so readers can scan it easily.
  • Stay on point with relevant imagery and/or your theme. If you are using a main image or theme, make it relevant to the topic of your infographic.
  • Don’t make it long for the sake of it. Readers will only scroll if the information is worth it.

The takeaway: Avoid overwhelming the reader with too much stuff which means reining in your designer when he/she suggests a lot of bells and whistles. Simplicity is best when it comes to infographic design.

4. Find Up to Date and Credible Data

As a reader, there’s nothing worse than looking at an infographic with a nice collection of facts and figures, then scrolling to the bottom and finding out that the data was from 10 years ago. Infographics are not just about the graphics , but about the ‘info’ – and yours had better be up to date. There are a lot of good places to find information for your infographic such as:

Check out the data sources section in Daily Tekk’s list of 100+ infographic resources for additional information repositories.

freeways-560

Remember, your infographic has to inform and if the data is old and readers can’t learn from it, then it’s pretty useless.

While we’re on the subject, the data you use must be credible. That means it has to come from either:

  • Sources that know their business (and that can include you, if you’re an expert in your field and qualified to pronounce on facts and trends)
  • Research which produces new findings

5. Make Sure it’s Relevant – and Tell a Story

Infographics need context (check out our infographic on infographics for an example), which means you have to have a narrative about the data you’re presenting and why it’s important and relevant to both your site and your readers. Some infographics may stand alone, but a little interpretation never goes amiss, even if people disagree with your take. If you don’t give readers a reason to care, they will never look at it.

Make your infographic relevant and timely by tying it to a current event. For example, create an infographic that coincides with the launch of the new James Bond movie:

jamesbond

Even on the infographic itself, you are telling a story, and that story must still be interesting (or as Impact Branding and Design says, fascinate) even without the image. If not, go back to the drawing board.

6. Get to the Point & Keep it Simple

What’s the point you’re trying to make with your infographic and why should readers care? It needs a message. Even though face-off infographics are popular according to Webdesign.org, the site rightly says that often these add no value to the reader. Telling people what they already know is not providing information.

The value of an infographic is its ability to simplify complex information and present it visually. In other words, make the data understandable, as Lisa Barone points out. If people are left scratching their heads in bemusement then your infographic is no more than a pretty picture – and what’s the point of that?


Resources

Feel more informed about infographics? Here are some resources to help you create & market your own:

Visual.ly says it’s the world’s largest data visualization showcase, making it a great place to look for inspiration.

Check out 50 Informative and Well-Designed Infographics on Hongkiat.

Infographics Archive highlights 9 Free Infographic Tools

And no infographic resources list would be complete without The Ultimate Guide to Infographics.


Tweetable tips to share


– Sharon Hurley Hall


This is a guest post, all opinions are those of the author.

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional web copywriter and blogger. Her career has also included stints as a journalist, academic writer and ghost writer.

Comments

  1. Joe Schaefer says:

    Nice article. It is funny how all the old principles of advertising never leave us. Looking at the copywriting bible by Eugene Schwartz, the importance of the headline predicts the things we find online. However, we have to adjust our definition of what a “headline” is. The same applies to Direct Response Guru Joseph Sugarman or sports marketer Jon Spoelstra. Like the proverb says “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:

      You’re right, Joe. It’s amazing how similar all advice for online content is to what they teach in J-school. :)

  2. John Soares says:

    Very good article Sharon.

    I particularly like that you emphasized the importance of credible data. I occasionally use infographics on my blog (with permission, of course), yet I’ve been frustrated at having to reject so many for poorly documented sources or untrustworthy sources.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:

      Thanks, John. The data has to be solid and trustworthy, otherwise what’s the point? But it’s always great when you find an infographic that teaches you something new.

  3. I love this article, especially your point about data. It’s so frustrating when my facts and stats turn out to be dated. They change so often nowadays! I find that checking websites like http://factbrowser.com/ are a great solution though.

    I also liked your point about the length of an infographic, although I think ones that are too short can be just as bad as ones that are too long!

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:

      You could be right about the length, Charlotte. Just as with articles, an infographic should be as long as it needs to be – no fluff!

  4. Edward says:

    Totally agree with what John said above, what confuses me more is that even some major news outlets don’t seem to bother doing their own research before posting it on their websites, it seems to me like as long as it’s visually attractive the readers going to like it, & that’s all that matters.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:

      Which is kind of sad, don’t you think, Edward? You expect better standards from major providers.

  5. Annie Sisk says:

    Awesome post, Sharon! A big fat ditto to the whole “credible and current data” thing, by the way. I’ve seen a few lovely infographics lately – well-designed, compelling visuals – with shall we say “questionable” source material. Completely undoes the credibility created by all the work required to make that pretty picture.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:

      Yes, Annie, because the thing is that if the stats don’t hold up, the infographic won’t hold the reader’s attention and no-one will want to share it.

  6. Nicole Fende says:

    Sharon you’ve done a great job breaking it down for those of us who aren’t marketing experts. It’s fascinating to peek behind the curtain and see why I’m either drawn in or put off by an infographic. Thanks!

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:

      Happy to help, Nicole. I really sat down and thought about the factors that make me read and share vs those that don’t and interestingly, a lot of these hold true for written content, too.

  7. I’m probably weird but the most irritating thing on the web to me is an out-of-date infographic, or an infographic that uses out of date information and treats it as fact three years later.

    Infographics are vogue, but any jerk with access to keynote or powerpoint or worse: WordArt thinks they can make one.

    Let’s not forget that graphic design is still design; data visualization experts are paid REALLY WELL for a reason! :-D

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:

      You said it, Nick; it’s not just about pretty pictures – useful information is an essential part of the package. :)

  8. [...] 6 Reasons Why I Won’t Look at Your Infographic - By @shurleyhall [...]

  9. [...] 6 Reasons why I don’t look at your Infographic Unbounce besteedt deze week aandacht aan de infographic. Infographics zijn hot, iedereen wil een infographic. Je komt ze tegenwoordig overal tegen, maar slechts een paar springen er uit en worden een hype. Een succesvolle infographic maken is dus zo makkelijk nog niet. Sharon Hurley Hall haalt 6 punten aan die van groot belang zijn bij het wel of niet slagen van een infographic. [...]

  10. Great post Sharon! With the glut of infographics out there, the ones I love are clean, concise, and informative without being jammed with so much data that you can’t digest it.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:

      “clean, concise and informative” – that’s definitely a recipe for a great infographic in my book, Stacy. Just as when you’re telling a story in words, it’s best to cut the fluff!

  11. [...] 6 Reasons why I don’t look at your Infographic Unbounce is discussing the infographic this week. Infographics are hot, everybody wants an infographic. You see them almost everywhere, but only few of them really stand out and become a hype. It really is not that easy to make a successful infographic. Sharon Hurley Hall discusses 6 points that are of great importance to the successfulness of an infographic. [...]

  12. Cathy Miller says:

    Love, love, love this post – especially that Keep it simple part. ;-)

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:

      Thanks, Cathy – the easier it is to understand the data, the more effective the infographic is.

  13. [...] 6 Reasons Why I Won’t Look at Your Infographic [...]

  14. Jordan Link says:

    Great article on infograpics. I work a lot with video and a lot of these principles apply to both fields. Many people think that simply having a video or infographic on your site means you are relevant and connecting with your customers, but that’s not true.

    There are levels of quality of everything, these are some cool tips to keep in mind. thanks for posting!

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:

      Thanks, Jordan. Good to know these apply to video as well. I guess the lesson is that visuals still need to tell a strong story – just having them isn’t enough.

  15. Trang trí says:

    It’s true. The fact is I can’t remember anything after reading them. And now they upgrade them to info-video, even worse. Just kill infographic and bring cartoon back!

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