March 16, 2018 (Updated: November 16, 2023)
Infographics are simple, engaging, and shareable, but only the best infographics will hold your audience’s attention for long enough to get the results you want. Just as your website content depends on different business needs, your infographics will also depend on the overall goal you’re trying to reach with it. Use this guide to better understand what your audience wants in an infographic, as well as the best infographics for meeting the various demands of your strategy.
Aside from the applicability of different types of infographics in different situations, there are some elements to any infographic that your audience will want. First and foremost, your audience is looking for relevant information as quickly as possible. They want to scan through your infographic in a few minutes and feel like they’ve taken steps toward becoming an expert in the subject. The information you focus on will depend largely on the type of infographic, but whatever the type, ensure that you trim the fat and leave only the meat.
Today’s audiences also usually want interactivity in their infographics. Static infographics will do fine in some situations, but allowing users to move your infographic will increase engagement. You can even play around with the mechanics of such movement to step it up a notch. Since interactivity gives your infographic mobility, it also gives you more precious space for information than you’d find in a static infographic.
Finally, if your infographic glitches when someone tries to view it on their mobile device, that infographic’s reach will shrivel. While it certainly depends on your audience, the vast majority of the users that view your infographic will likely be doing so on a mobile device. Your website should already be optimized for high performance on a mobile device, but if it’s not, fix that before you make a heavy push on your infographic campaign.
Your audience expects a lot out of you, so show them you’re up to the challenge.
Now, let’s talk about the types of best infographics.
Use this type of infographic when you want the majority of emphasis to be on hard data. Statistical infographics still involve graphics and other visuals, but they use the numbers to tell the story through charts, graphs, or just big, impressive numbers. These infographics need three main aspects to succeed: an engaging story or topic that your audience cares about, useful and reliable data that supports your story, and charts, tables, illustrations, graphs, or other representations to visualize the data. Your statistical infographic may have a beautifully complex map of data, or it may consist of one big pie chart.
While the visual appeal of a statistical infographic is certainly important, it shouldn’t steal focus from the data, nor should it distort the data or make the data more difficult for a viewer to understand. For example, a 3-D bar graph set at an angle may have a little more going for it visually than a standard bar graph, but such a difference can make the data difficult to accurately interpret.
Learn how to make complex data infographics simple for your audience to understand.
Image via Flickr by Stefan Leijon
Where statistical infographics tell stories using data, an informational infographic tells stories using condensed, text-based information. The ultimate goal of these are some of the best types of infographics, as they inform audiences about as much info as possible in as little space as possible. That doesn’t mean informational infographics are limited to only text; visuals can improve engagement if they supplement the information rather than dominate it.
Keep visuals in check by establishing a clear hierarchy in your graphic. Visuals will often draw the eye’s attention before anything else, so use the visual to guide the eye to the important information that follows. An easy way to check this type of hierarchy is to close your eyes for a few seconds, then open them and register where your eye naturally falls first, then where it glides afterward.
The concept of hierarchy also applies to text. Depending on the fonts and sizes of certain areas of text, some areas will draw more attention than others. Use that to your advantage. Make the most important information pop. One easy way to create hierarchy in text is by using a combination of bullet points, headings, and running text. Use concise but descriptive headings so viewers can scan for the information they’re most interested in and so they can get a gist of the infographic’s story by scanning over the headings.
Timeline infographics are used to show the passage of time, which distinguishes them from process infographics. Like other infographic types, a timeline infographic should tell a story, but it should do so in chronological order. You could use a timeline infographic to illustrate the growth of your company or the evolution of an area of interest that your audience would find engaging.
A strong timeline infographic keeps its information clear and easy to follow while maintaining visual interest. Create a simple hierarchy by using concise headers and very brief bodies of text. Shifting colors between types of information can also help create hierarchy and increase readability.
The best infographics focused on a timeline, though they sometimes may seem less directly related to your strategy, should still somehow point your audience back to you. Finish a timeline about the evolution of a certain technology with an explanation of how your business implements that technology. Make your audience feel like your business is what this timeline has led up to.
While a timeline infographic leads your audience down a linear, chronological pathway, process infographics present a series of easy-to-follow steps in a linear order. These are some of the best types of infographics, but they can also be the most difficult to craft. They require you to break a complex process into simple tasks — and that’s much easier said than done. By the time your audience has finished working through your process infographic, they should have either completed the task or feel competent enough to do so.
In terms of design, your process information should be indisputably clear. Establish hierarchy and order with numbers or bullet structures with clear headers that label the specific steps. It will also likely help to break down the text under headings into bullet points for easy readability. Don’t be afraid to use basic illustrations or icons to anchor your instructions in something more concrete.
Anytime you write instructions, there are a few factors you should always consider. First, place any warnings early in the process. Your process may not have any dangerous risks, but if it does, your audience should be aware before they begin working through the steps.
Second, you need to provide enough information for your audience to complete the task, but you have to do so in as little space as possible. This requires you to consider what’s most important to your process and what can be cut. It also requires you to anticipate questions your audience may ask as they move through steps. Finding the balance in information density will likely take several drafts of text, but it’s crucial. When you can, it never hurts to tie back to your business at the end of the process.
How can process infographics augment your strategy? They don’t have to only be used to teach your audience how to build something. The process could guide readers through the steps of a service that your business provides or walk them through how they can solve a problem common to your audience.
Who doesn’t love maps? Geographic infographics combine statistics and visuals to illustrate location-based information. Many geographic infographics use color coding to differentiate information. Just be careful to ensure that different shades of color are easy to distinguish so that your data is easy to understand. If you decide not to have labels sully your colorful map, include a legend to one side.
Your map may illustrate a city, a county, or the entire globe. It could display your service area or show off the overall reach of your brand. You can use geographic infographics for a variety of purposes, but such content is generally used to inform. Inform your audience on aspects of your business (such as reach) or on something more widely related to your field. For example, if you’re a solar company, your map can display the percentage of homes in a given area that use solar power.
Another one of the best types of infographics is a comparison model. Your audience is constantly confronted with decisions: should they go with your business or your competitor? Which of your services should they choose? Comparison infographics set two things side by side and highlight differences or similarities, pros and cons, or do’s and don’ts. They ultimately serve as a guide that provides your audience with a substantial enough amount of information that they can make a calculated decision.
When designing a comparison infographic, make the two sides as disparate as possible, whether through color, fonts, or other tools. Most of this infographic will be textual, since you need to convey as much information as possible, but you can still include simple images and icons to spice things up. Since you need to be as concise as you can, focus on the most important points of comparison or contrast.
When making comparisons, make sure you are always fair to both sides. If you’re comparing your brand to your competitors, it’s not fair to make your business feel like it dropped out of the sky to answer a prayer to the heavens. Your audience will recognize when you give the other side of a comparison too little credit or set them up as a strawman, which may cause you to quickly lose credibility.
Of course, you want to be persuasive, but do so using hard data and awareness of your audience’s needs. Focus on your strengths, but don’t make your competitor look like the scourge of your industry. When used right, comparison infographics will guide your audience’s decisions to your advantage, every time.
Whether you’re looking to build brand loyalty, inform your audience, or promote a product or service, you can find the best types of infographics for your strategy. In the end, award-winning infographics will meet the needs of your audience. Maybe their needs are fueled by a burning curiosity or a bothersome problem. If you can offer a solution to those needs, your audience will keep coming back for more.
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