Once upon a time, infographics were all the rage. They were everywhere, and in every form — beautiful, quirky, funny, insightful, or just plain weird.
And for the most part, they worked. Neil Patel’s companies, for example, reeled in millions of visitors off the back of infographics alone.
Things are very different today. Sure, there are many awesome infographics floating around on the web, generating a ton of traffic for their creators and delighting their audiences. But for the most part, the infographic world seems to be a lot quieter.
People are starting to realize that it’s not enough to throw together some words and images. Readers are tired of seeing the same old, tired ideas being rehashed, or numbers mashed together in a shoddy mess of graphs and charts.
To create infographics that stand out from the pack and drive serious traffic today, you have to make it something special. If you follow the rest of this post closely, you might have a fighting chance yet.
Plan, Plan, Plan
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” — Alan Lakein
At first glance, the best infographics seem easy enough to make. Just get some interesting data, visualize them into eye-catching graphics, and you’ve got a viral infographic ready to rock and roll — right?
As content creators know, the things that seem the simplest are the hardest to create. Seth Godin’s 50-word zingers on his popular blog (some are even less, I’ve counted), for instance, are the result of years and years of experience and pondering about the subject of marketing.
If you don’t have the experience nor time to sit around and think, don’t fret. You can easily make up for it by planning well. Here are the four things to take note of when planning your infographics to maximize your chances of success.
1. Data Before Idea
Data should be the centerpiece of your infographic, and not flashy animations or cute icons. So have a good look at the dataset you have on hand.
Take the time to learn what it’s about, where it’s from, the methodology behind the estimates, and what makes it interesting and unique.
Then choose a few key data points you think will have the biggest impact on your audience, and make them the focus of your infographic.
2. Zoom in on Your Target Audience
With data in hand, the next thing you should think about is: who would find this the most interesting or relevant?
If you have numbers that reveal how many tech startups have made it from conception to going public over ten years, for example, your target audience will likely be entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
Then consider what would be the best theme and format to grab their attention and speak to them. Using the same example, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are a busy group of people, so it would be wise to pick a format that gets straight to the point rather than waffling around.
3. Clearly Define Your Goal
Now, you can think about what you want to accomplish with this infographic. Is the goal to inform your audience about an otherwise complicated process? Or shine a light on some surprising numbers?
Here are some common goals the best infographics have set out to hit:
- Simplify decision-making by presenting the options visually
- Distil large quantities of data and information into simple and easy-to-understand formats
- Present otherwise mundane information in a fun way
4. Decide on a Layout (Roughly)
With data and end goal in mind, you can start putting everything together. At this stage, it would be good to have a rough layout to follow when setting down all the visual elements.
Many infographics turn out looking messy and complicated because the creators did not put in the time to think how to bring all the parts together. Over at Piktochart, we found that more than 30% of our users tend to use the blank canvas (which is number 172 below) to create their infographics:
Therefore, it pays to spend more time thinking and strategizing before putting pen to paper.
If you don’t know where to start, this layout cheat sheet should help to get things going:
Make it Look Good
Here’s the fun part. Once the foundation is set, it’s time to start putting the right visual elements in place to beautify and give meaning to the numbers.
Here are the four major visual elements that you should take special notice of.
1. Tell a Story
Regardless of how great the design is, or how groundbreaking the data is, at the end of the day our human brains still scramble to find meaning in it “by looking for the story to make sense out of the experience,” according to psychologist Pamela B. Rutledge.
So you should make sure that the structure of your “story” is logical and clear, from top to bottom. Here’s a basic example of how it should look:
2. Use the Right Fonts
Fonts are fun to play around with. Fonts are also plentiful. Whatfontis.com has over 320,000 fonts in its database, and it’s safe to say that there are many more out there in the wild.
Because of this, it can get very confusing for the average infographic creator. Thankfully, there are certain types and rules that make it a lot easier to navigate.
Different typefaces can create a variety of moods and tones in the content. Times New Roman and Helvetica, for example, project a more serious and business-like feel, while Pacifico and Lobster feel more fun and creative:
Font pairings are slightly trickier. However, a well-designed infographic typically uses no more than two different typefaces or four type variations. The two typefaces should still belong to the same class — serif or sans serif.
3. Stick to Two Main Colors
Colors affect us in ways that we don’t even realize consciously. Use this to your advantage — picking the right colors can make your message stand out right away.
One way you could do this is by picking colors based on the subject-matter of your infographic. For example, if you’re talking about coffee beans, using different shades of brown would provide the perfect context to the topic at hand:
A common mistake here is to go crazy with the colors. Resist the urge! A good rule of thumb is to stick to two main colors — which should be clear and bold — and never use more than four colors throughout your infographic.
4. Leave Lots of White Space
This is arguably one of the top things infographic creators neglect. Most tend to think if you’re going to make an infographic, might as well have as much info as possible crammed into it.
(The designers at Piktochart always scold me for this, understandably so)
The opposite is true. Overstuffing your infographic with words and numbers will almost certainly cause your reader to get lost in the clutter.
White space, however, will help to draw attention to the right elements and increase reading comprehension.
To achieve this, make sure to identify the core information you want to highlight. Once that’s done, literally clear out space around these bits of information to draw attention to them, like we’ve done here:
You Can Do It
It seems like a lot of work to create an infographic that actually drives traffic. But don’t be afraid to tackle a variety of topics and subjects to see what fits. As Sujan Patel puts it:
The key here is to diversify the subject matter of your infographics. Play it safe by sticking to the same topics and you’re going to limit the number and type of sites you can target and the audiences you can reach […] Be adventurous with the topics you cover and you should find yourself attracting visitors and links from all sorts of awesome sites.
Have you ever tried to create a great infographic that didn’t quite get the attention you wanted? Share your experience below!
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!