Looking for information on how to create an infographic on a budget? Well, this is the blog for you. When done correctly, infographics are great for visualizing data and equally as useful in attracting backlinks and social media shares. I will preface this post by saying that the flood of low quality content (especially infographics) is eroding the effectiveness of this type of content marketing. Like any other type of content, when you take the time to research and curate the data you provide and the audience you are targeting, you will see a much better return on your effort.
Infographics for content marketing have been on the rise, as illustrated in the above Google trends graph. This trend is expected to continue on this trajectory over the coming years. With this rise in popularity comes the potential for a lot of… well, crap.
How to Create an Infographic Idea
Finding ideas for infographics might seem easy enough until you realize how many have already been done 1000 times over. I tell people to focus on micro topics in their industry that no one is covering, not just the big trends of the day.
The key to finding good ideas starts with good data. I do not recommend using just any data you find on the web without verifying it first. If you come across data from a smaller independent source, attempt to contact them and confirm that the information you have is accurate if possible.
Zanran is a relatively new search engine focused on helping people find any kind of numerical data, graphs, tables and charts data across the web. This goes for any charts or tabular data, even data that is embedded into PDFs, Excel Spreadsheets, HTML pages as well as Word documents. This makes Zanran extra handy for tracking down and extracting hard numbers for your infographics on a broad range of niche industries, topics and geographic areas. Zanran’s ability to index and locate graphs, tables and bar charts make it my number one free ideation tool for inforgaphics at the moment.
Run by Nathan Yau, Flowing Data provides statisticians, designers and those mad computer scientists a true resource for data visualization of all kinds. The site has tons and tons of examples of data visualizations in government and private industry alike. Although there are some provided free, to access downloadable source code on Flowing Data as well as other tutorials and tables you must purchase a yearly membership for $29 a year. Use Flowing Data for data visualization inspiration, it is a treasure of ideas. Although flowing data does not show you how to create an infographic, it is a great resource for data visualization in general.
Census Bureau APIs
The Census Bureau APIs are a goldmine of data waiting to be put into a crispy visualization right into your website. There is a library of statistical data that could be mashed up and used in hundreds of different variations. They have been working hard to make data more available to the public. The Census Bureau’s new Data Visualization Gallery is a way for people to see statistical data in a way that is a little easier to understand than a never ending spreadsheet.
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is chalked full of statistical data about the state of health around the world. As one of the top organizations in the world tasked with monitoring and assessing health trends, you will find a treasure trove of data that can be used and cross referenced for a health or fitness based infographic.
Need to scrape data from a page so you don’t have to spend hours copying and pasting from tables? ScraperWiki will allow you to extract data from virtually any web page on the internet to be used in your infographic ideas. This can be a time saver if you need to compile a large amount of data from a web page into another format, such as a database you might be using to power a dynamic data visualizaton.
Quantcast Measure offers a free, measured audience and traffic reports for websites. You are able to see the demographic information related to various brands which could easily be used for infographic content. Sort through age, income, education and ethnicity of a popular brand or website’s audience and use it create a comparative or trend based infographic.
Google Mobile Planet
Looking to do an infographic related to the mobile phone / smart phone industry? Google Mobile Planet provides some great data for you to create an informative infographic for your audience. Starting back in 2011, Google’s Mobile Planet offers a regular survey for different countries. You can create your own reports by country, which is very useful for obvious reasons if you are doing a data visualization.
Looking for ideas that have a better chance of going viral? Google Trends is a great place to start. Search for keywords and topics to see how and when they trend. Conferences, seasonal events and topics are always a safe bet for guaranteed shares, provided the data, design and content add value.
Another great place to get data for your infographic is Alexa. For example, if you were comparing brands, you could reference Alexa’s “audience”, “traffic stats” and “search analytics” in a variety of ways to indicate how one brand is outperforming another. It could also be used to illustrate various market segments or most popular social network with the data Alexa provides.
NeSS Data Exchange V2.0
Consider this the equivalent of the Census Bureau APIs, just for England and Wales. The Neighbourhood Statistics (NeSS) Data Exchange is an Application Programming Interface designed for NeSS. This is an online service created to make it much easier to access demographic and geographic statistical data for England and Whales free of charge.
How to Create an Infographic
Learning how to create an infographic from scratch, using Photoshop or Illustrator would be much more involved. My objective with this post was to provide a way for people who may not have the money or technical ability to create an infographic for their website. As I mentioned previously, the key to a good infographic is the substance and relevance of the content. The design itself is also a key factor, but even using a template or infographic design service can go over well results if you have well researched data that appeals to a niche audience or industry.
Services like Piktochart, Infogr.am and Easel.ly provide a means for anyone who can point and click to easily create an infographic. Each of the services have their pros and cons so you will need to evaluate them for yourself to see which one works best for your needs.
Piktochart is the best of the three options in my opinion. With over 90+ themes to choose from and their “Magical App” browser based GUI interface, you can create decent quality infographics in a snap. Another great thing about Piktograph’s Magical App system, is the ability to customize each element of the infographic theme you choose. The background, typography and even additional sections, shapes and graphics can be moved around and placed in the order you want. They also have tons of great documentation that will show you how to create an infographic using their new “Magical App”.
There are some limitations as well. You are limited to the fonts and certain graphical elements they provide. You have access to a limited number of of pretty basic themes as a free member as well. If you want to make more original designs and need a starting point, you will need to upgrade to their pro option ($29 month or $169 annual).
Easelly comes in third on the list, giving Piktochart a run for it’s money. Their intuitive browser based infographic design GUI and VTheme library makes creating an infographic easy, even for someone relatively new to design. For example, my own mother with very little training was able to login and get a decent graphic going in just a few hours. This simply wouldn’t be possible if she was using Photoshop.
The Easel.ly registration process runs through a WordPress login page, something I couldn’t help but notice when I signed up. Not that there is anything majorly wrong with this, but I personally would go for something more custom if I was providing a service like this. The potential for performance problems comes to mind, but I won’t dig too hard on this. It’s really not a big deal, I’m just picky. Start-ups should use whatever they need to to save time. At the end of the day, getting to market is more important than a flashy login system. They show you the basics of how to create an infographic using their system, but their documentation could be better.
Infogr.am is last on the list, but does have some promising features and options not to be overlooked. I’m a big fan of the way they handle their tabular data within the app. Their branding and overall UI is as good or better than the aforementioned services.
The downside of Infogr.am for me is it’s lack of themes and limited customization to the themes they offer. The dashboard can be confusing at first, before you realize your user controls are to the top left. I’m sure the team behind Infogr.am has lost’s of improvements planned in the future, so don’t count this service out just because I listed last.
Whether you are creating an inforgraphic for your school district or municipality, a personal blog or discussion on your facebook page, Infographics are an undeniable way to engage your audience with content – but only if the content adds value and the approach is right. It is also important to note that the above services will never be able to replace an experienced graphic designer who knows how to bring your data to life. Once you know how to create an infographic using templates, you will want to move on to doing more custom illustrations using the things you learned along the way.