The infographic format is known for quite a few things, many of which are not positive. Ridiculously tall and skinny infographics exceed the attention span of viewers. Infographics created by clueless or inexperienced designers often have visualizations that don’t make sense. Many of them are designed purely as link bait with no meaningful content. Some contain content that should never be presented in the form of an image, but would work much better as an html document. At Visually we don’t discriminate against these, but we certainly never create them ourselves. We believe in using infographics wisely for the types of things they are good at. That said, there are plenty of bad infographics out there, so let’s take a look at some of the common characteristics of bad infographics.
Too much text will kill any infographic, no matter how good the visuals are. Text on an infographic should be there to support the visuals, not the other way around. If you chose an image format for presenting your content, you should take full advantage of that format and use visualizations, diagrams, or illustrations as the primary subject matter. On the internet, text belongs in HTML pages so search engines can easily index it, browsers can render it for a variety of screen sizes and zoom levels, and users can interact with it.
Poorly created charts, or charts that don’t show data accurately can severely hurt an infographic’s message. If you use charts at all in your infographic, then you should spend a lot of time making sure they are correct. Charts are nuggets of valuable information, showing trends, relationships between variables, status reports, and more. All of this information is valuable and charts look cool so people’s eyes are drawn to them. Make sure that any charts you use are heavily proofread for best practice before you publish.
If you choose the narrative route, the story you present is critical to the quality of the overall infographic. A series of disconnected statistics or random facts will never be as compelling as a coherent narrative backed up by data. The story should have a beginning, middle, and end, with a smooth flow between all of the parts.
Irrelevance to Your Audience
Being interesting to your audience is key to getting them to share it with their networks. The infographic doesn’t have to be interesting to everyone in the world, but it absolutely has to hold the attention of your target group. Make sure the subject matter informs or captivates (or both, ideally).
Going too generic with your infographic’s appearance is a great way to get it completely ignored. There is no shortage of infographics on the internet anymore, and the competition has raised the bar for design quality. A good infographic has a great layout, well considered colors, and a visual style that is unique and beautiful. Think of your infographic as a melding of journalism, data analysis, and digital arts. A good infographic is an art piece worthy of hanging on a wall.
Inaccurate information is the bane of infographics. Where you get your data and facts is critical to the integrity of the overall piece. An infographic can only be trusted as much as its least trustworthy source. So, what if your infographic is a bad infographic? Well, you’re risking your brand’s integrity. Text overload and generic appearances will make people associate your brand with being dull and boring. Irrelevance to your audience, or an incoherent narrative will make you seem out of touch with your customers and disconnected from reality. Perhaps worst of all, inaccurate charts and poor sourcing can make you look like a liar. If you are creating or planning on creating infographics, make sure to do them well so you get more out of them than you put in. Drew Skau is Visualization Architect at Visually and a PhD Computer Science Visualization student at UNCC with an undergraduate degree in Architecture. You can follow him on Twitter @SeeingStructure