Ah yes, the SEO value of an Infographic. And the viral potential of having Mashable feature your infographic. Quick, what do you want to see an infographic about? Is there something you do, some business angle that you could parlay into an infographic? The new marketing manger asks, “Can you make this one go viral, please?”
Are you tired of the hyped infographic yet? Over at the Daily Infographic (a great resource if you WANT one) things are getting a bit tired. I subscribed on Tuesday after moderating a panel with one of the young curators. And yesterday’s Uber-Chart on the Dollar Bill was about the most superfluous use of an [infographic] I have ever seen. I’d say they jumped the shark on that one. And if that’s the BEST they had in their quiver for Thursday, February 23, 2012, we need to get busy. And actually, the top three on their page right now are awful.
So what’s the buzz about? And why oh why do they make them so damn long? (my continuous rant on the long-long form continues)
Let me show you the good, the bad, and not the ugly.
1. GOOD – where the image enhances the information, makes a memorable comparison or connection
GOOD BECAUSE:a. The image supports the information; b. The silhouettes are good representations of the sound levels; c. The spiral vortex mirrors the structure of the ear.
2. BAD – where the image does not display any additional information, where a simple chart would’ve been a better choice
BAD BECAUSE: a. The images are generic; b. The icons do not enhance our understanding of the information; c. The visual layout is boring and has nothing to do with “schedule” or “hectic.”
So this second “infographic” is the variety where some marketing manager said, “Make me an infographic.” And probably the next thing he said was, “End of day, you have two hours.”
Good infographics take a lot of time. The practitioners of visual design and data visualization will start with the concept of the numbers and search for a THEME or IMAGE MOTIF that will enhance the story behind the data. A really good infographic builder will also research the google relevance of keywords associated with the data. If you’re going to design an infographic for maximum exposure you need to know what people are searching for. It may not be what you originally think.
And when the idea is formulated, the images are created in sync with the overall theme. The data and the visual become cohesive and instructive.
So, please, by all means, create beautiful infographics. Daily Infographic knows, we need more good ones. And there are certainly going to be more bad ones.
The Take Away: If the art and data blend into something that furthers the information you’ve got an infographic. If they don’t you’ve got clip art with numbers.
UPDATE: The panel on infographics by Social Media Club is now up on Storify with some highlights, and the entire video is available on YouTube:
Here’s a skip of the announcements to the start of the panel:
I moderated a panel at the Social Media Club in Austin to discuss infographics. You know those little pictograms or things you either love or hate. The USA Today chart that looks like a rain cloud or the really really long image and numbers about how awesome facebook is. First a thanks to Kat Mandelstein, the chair of #smca for asking me to be a part of this lively discussion. And to Joey McGirr for tagging me in a photo even though I wasn’t in the photo. And thanks to the panel: StatesmanGrafixekmediathe_infographicFishco_Studiosall worthy folks to follow.
So let’s cut to the chase here. Aside from being passionate about infographics and the efficient communication of information, I learned a few things that we should all think about.
1. Long or Short?
The form should follow the function. If the data supports a long story then perhaps the infographic can unravel the data in a long-form infographic. But for the most part, short is sweet. As screens compress again in the form of phones and tablets, the efficient use of screen space will be more critical. Perhaps interactive graphics can provide layering rather than scrolling.
2. Do we need more names for types of infographics? (data visualization, fancy chart, diagram)
There are definitely a number of genres of infographic. And there was a bit of a dispute over naming them different things. Even the name info-graphic is an abbreviation for Information Graphic. So the criteria should be the compression of data and images to convey a concept or relationship.
3. Infographics really start with the data.
The visualization is what the artist brings to the table to create an infographic-win that either succeeds with a memorable combination of color, words, numbers, and images, or an infographic-fail that is merely gumming up the internet with useless pictures that have little or no relevance to the ideas being presented.
4. Mobile could be the killer app that kills the long-form infographic forever.
No one is going to scroll down ten screens on their smart phone to read your infographic. No matter how smart the phone, or the infographic, or the person hoping to glean a bit of useful information.
So is the current rage towards ever-lengthening infographics going to end? Let’s hope so. But in the mean time let’s agree that if the image and the data don’t fit together, perhaps you’re better off going with a pretty chart from Excel rather than trying to fashion an infographic.