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Infographics: 7 Pitfalls to Avoid at All Costs

Some people love infographics, some people don’t. But hell, some people don’t like social media either; it’s all a matter of personal taste.

Personally, I like a good infographic (emphasis here on the word good). They have the power to condense pretty intense blog posts into something that delivers the barest, most important bones in a dynamic, colourful and attention grabbing way, which also makes them a great piece of link bait. Well, the best ones do anyway.

There’s always the temptation to go a bit mad with infographics, especially when you’re creating your very first one. The millions of statistics, potential colour palettes and endless layout combinations are an exciting change to putting together plain old text articles day after day, which is why you need to be very careful and avoid these seven dangerous pitfalls…

1) Not employing a journalist’s code of ethics

great infographic intro

Just as with a blog or news post, the title and introductory paragraph of your infographic needs to tell readers what they’re letting themselves in for, without revealing too much. Think about the rules of journalism – the most compelling and important information is placed right at the start, alongside a relevant image that captures the imagination. Don’t waste this one chance to impress your readership.

2) Going wild with colour

If you’ve successfully grabbed your readers’ attention by avoiding the previous pitfall, one of the next things they’ll notice is the colour scheme of your infographic.

Common sense tells us that layer upon layer of bright colour isn’t easy on the eye and completely swallows up text. Paler, complimentary colour palettes fare much better, and there are numerous studies that dictate which colours are more popular with readers, even gleaning something of an emotional reaction. This one from Kissmetrics highlights the psychology behind colour, while this useful resource from Smashing Apps identifies the most attractive colour palettes.

On the other hand, it’s always a good idea to incorporate colours that match your branding and to place your logo somewhere on your infographic, making it more distinctive to those first coming into contact with your brand and memorable to those who may already be aware of who you are.

great colour infographic

3) Getting carried away with your layout

Infographics have a habit of getting very overcrowded very quickly. There are so many great facts and figures out there it can be hard to choose the best and most relevant ones, which leads many marketers to overwhelm readers with hard to consume information. Instead, it’s a good idea to actually draw out a rough layout for your infographic on paper, providing some semblance of order when it comes to designing the real one.

Coupled with the use of arrows or lines to lead readers through your points, scannable sections and attractive but relevant imagery, holding your readers’ attention for the entirety of your masterpiece should be a walk in the park.

good layout infographic

4) Using out of date or irrelevant data

Out of date data means an out of date infographic, while irrelevant data means an irrelevant infographic. In general, a reader will want to learn something new about their chosen subject, either for their own benefit or for work, so they’ll want to go to a credible source. Incorrect facts and figures might be easier to find but they’ll only succeed in making not only you as individual, but your business seem sloppy and untrustworthy.

Instead of taking the lazy route, give something back to your readership. The best places to find statistics obviously depend on your industry, but websites such as Fact Browser and Econsultancy are bursting with up to date figures from a range of sectors.

up to date infographic

5) Being too conventional

Why have vanilla when you could have vanilla and toffee crunch?

As with ice cream, this sentiment applies to infographics too. Instead of bowing to the norm and being too nervous to try something new, think outside the box and create something that really stands out from your competitors and stops you blending into the background. Steer clear of too many graphics, pie charts and mathematical diagrams and go for stand out, almost metaphorical images instead.

unconventional infographic

6) Telling a story instead of showing it

Your statistics need context and a clear narrative; you wouldn’t read a book that dithered around the plot for ten chapters before the character went out for afternoon tea, would you?

Infographics are visual blog posts, so keeping text interesting and to a minimum is a must. Wouldn’t you rather be told the main points, facts and statistics while being shown the rest through clever graphics than read something more akin to a whole article?

show don't tell infographic

7) Not bothering to credit sources

How would you feel if someone scraped information from your work and claimed it as their own? Chances are, the original sources of your stats will be thinking the same thing, even if you don’t come directly out and claim the figures in question as your own.

Crediting your sources is an unspoken common courtesy and, as a bonus, tells readers and other industry experts alike that you’re a business who can be trusted and won’t slimily take credit for other peoples’ hard work.

citing sources infographic

Infographics were created to entertain the right side of our brains, to visualise sets of complicated figures that, when featured in a rambling, complicated blog post, often succeed in making readers tune out. They simplify otherwise complicated data and, when executed precisely and with a link back to your site, encourage not only an increase in website traffic but in potential leads.

So now it’s over to you. Do you have any tips of your own for creating truly gorgeous infographics, or are you not totally convinced by their power? Leave your comment below.

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