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For every amazing infographic that goes viral and gets a million shares, there are 100 boring infographics and 200 ugly ones. It’s easy for marketers to get caught up in their talking points and brand messaging, while designers stick to a particular vision and refuse to consider other options. Smart content teams approach their designs with an unbiased eye, whether they play devil’s advocate on their ideas or ask a co-worker to critique the design for them. Whatever your design process, make sure you avoid these six infographic sins.
It might seem tempting to drive your point home with an undeniable amount of research, but too many charts, graphs, and statistics can actually confuse and isolate your audience. While visual messages transmit faster than text and are stored in the long-term memory, an excess of information and stimulation can lead to a brain overload. Simply put: cramming too many ideas into one design can cause your readers to start skimming, and retain less information than if you included one hard-hiding datapoint.
Image via Flickr by Stefan Leijan
Remember, you’re not writing a research paper or reporting on a national Gallup Poll; you’re using your statistics and visuals to tell a story. While your design should have a practical layout, make sure your information has a beginning, middle, and an end. Most infographics start by introducing a problem, provide more information about the cause and effects, and then offer solutions at the end. By the time you reach the bottom, you should be able to answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the content’s subject.
For example, let’s say you were creating an infographic about shelter adoptions. The headline might read “How You Can Help Your Local Animal Shelter” and the body would answer why shelters need adoptees, when they need help the most, how you can help your local shelter, and what problems shelters are facing. Instead of sharing a report on shelters, you’re telling a story about them.
While stock photography is a great tool for getting inspired by what’s out there, and even for creating a rough draft or a pitch for the client, people can spot generic imagery from a mile away.
Stock photos simply don’t perform as well as images of real people or unique scenarios. One website tested their home page with a generic customer service agent picked from a stock photo site versus a photo of their CEO. The image of the CEO created more of a personal connection with the audience that the stock model couldn’t compare to, causing both clicks and conversions to go up.
It’s worth it to hire an illustrator who is familiar with Photoshop or a designer who is capable of using stock photos as a base to create their own images when they design your infographics. Not only will your designs look better, but they will also match your branding and company website, instead of the generic stock pages.
The marketer shouldn’t ask the designer for only one infographic image size, and the designer shouldn’t limit their deliverables to a final JPG. Both parties need to work together to discuss what supplemental materials are needed for marketing and how the infographic is going to be promoted. Are you going to share the infographic in a newsletter? Then you need to ask for a header photo or a teaser image to get readers to click to the website. Are you going to share your design on Instagram? Then you need a square image that’s tailored to the audience.
Making sure you have materials specific to the marketing tactics will make your promotions look more professional and have a stronger effect. Furthermore, it will decrease the turnaround time required when the marketer runs back to the designer to create these supplemental materials after the final image has been delivered.
Instead of letting your content rot in the archives of your blog and social media pages, marketers should make sure they have a 6- and 12-month plan for promoting their designs. Will your content be relevant in a year? If not, are you going to update it? If you’re only going to use your design content for a few months, then you need to make sure you get the most out of it to maximize your ROI.
Set goals for what traffic you want to see to your infographic a week after the launch, a month after the launch, and three months after the launch. You also want to set goals for the number of links driven to your content in the following months, to make sure you’re getting your SEO value along with social engagement from the design.
Interactive infographics also need to follow a strict set of rules before they’re ready to be released into the world. Some developers have a habit of over animating and cramming action and clickability into every page, word, and element in the design. Like static designs, less is more, and a few key animations can go further than animation overload.
Interactive infographics need to be tested with an unbiased audience before they’re ready for a launch. While the marketing team might know what they want, and the developers might be able to execute it, a third party needs to make sure it actually makes sense and has flow so that a complete stranger can understand it. If your interactive designs lack usability, then your audience might lose interest after a page or two, rendering all of your work moot.
While these might be the six deadly sins of creating infographics, there are significantly more that designers make along the way, from poorly chosen fonts to text that’s too small. The best way to prevent these design faux pas is with an extra set of eyes offering honest (but constructive) criticism.