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Infographics: Potential Drawbacks and Best Practices

Creative Market March 31, 2021 · 5 min read
If you’ve been on the web recently, you’ve probably seen some evidence of the headlong rush into the world of infographics. Many designers noticed that audiences were getting bored with the same old 500-word text pages that used to provide optimal Google search rankings and a good number of companies decided that it would be a good idea to provide some kind of data visualization. Pre-designed visual infographic banners and posters soon became ubiquitous across the Internet, especially in many parts of the business domain.

Reasons for the Rise of Infographics

One appealing aspect of the infographic is that people respond to visual narratives. They want to be able to see what’s being presented at a glance, rather than wading through rows of marching text, which can be hard on the eyes for web surfer. Also, what a lot of people like about info graphics is that they show statistics or “hard numbers” about a concept. The traditional web blog was often light on specific assessments of business technologies, business practices or anything else people were reading to chart the course of their enterprises online. Infographics seemed to ‘save us’ in that they presented big collections of concrete numbers indicating consumer trends, business process popularity and more, in a similar way that Harper’s magazine offers its single page of one-liners attached to various percentages, fractions and other real numbers.

Some Drawbacks of Infographics

Although infographics promised all of these things, some are now moving away from the practice of throwing out one of these collective banners to try to explain the new technology or clarify recent trends. One reason is that info graphics can be confusingly laid out, as noted in this article from Automated Insights, where an expert is quoted as talking about a “junk chart” where there are just too many non-sequiturs or non-related items being locked together in a visual display. For example, you might find yourself with one of these less than clear presentations if your big glitzy percentage of marketers using social media is right next to something like the fraction of business processes being automated, which rests on top of a six-digit number counting server farms in Nevada. Another limitation of this kind of data presentation is that it doesn’t always effectively tell a story. Even with a well-laid-out organization, infographics often lack that critical transition that helps readers move from one idea to another. Also, the vast majority of infographics don’t have a ‘connect-the-dots’ strategy that shows readers how to prioritize each of the neat icons or graphics that have numbers pasted on top of them. As a result, readers can wander in these deserts looking for clues to their destinations.

An Alternative to Infographics

Some companies are now using a different approach by considering various kinds of web formatting. Formatting text with icons, bullet points and other visual features can be a more effective way than consolidating all of your presentation into a single chart or banner. This can work in a lot of different ways: for instance, designers can take a statistic or fact and break that out into a sidebar, adding a clever picture or graphic. This helps draw the reader’s eye where it’s intended to go, while keeping a fact solidly built into a linear text story that people can read through without trying to figure out where to go on the page.

Follow Best Practices

Infographics aren’t always the silver bullet you’re looking for, but they can still be extremely useful, both from a marketing and communication standpoint. At Creative Market, we love infographics and have tons of awesome resources to help you build them. To make sure your infographics are both honest and useful though, take the following points into consideration.
  1. Try to tell a story and create a clear path of understanding, don’t just throw out facts and figures.
  2. Always consider whether or not the data that is pictured could be misleading. For instance, a map showing the number of cancer survivors by region might simply reflect population groupings.
  3. Always list your sources clearly, along with any assumptions or estimations you made in collecting the data.
  4. Make sure that the type of graphic that you’re using is the best way to visually represent the data. Don’t use a confusing, abstract graph when the data is more easily understandable as a simple pie chart.
  5. Don’t tell lies with the sizes of your graphics. If you use a circle that’s 50% larger to show how a data point is 10% higher, you’re misleading viewers with your design, whether you intend to or not.
  6. Show your infographic to several people before you publish it, and ask what their impressions are. If multiple people interpret the information incorrectly, you need to tweak your format. Remember that the entire point of an infographic is to make information easier to take in, not harder.

What Do You Think?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Do you think infographics are a good way to present complex information in an easily understood format? What are some great infographics you’ve seen lately? How about some not-so-great ones?
Header image created using Travel Infographics
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