The Downsides of Infographics and How We Can Do Better
Infographics are undoubtedly one of the most useful tools that we have for simplifying data. They allow people to get important information at a glance without having to do a lot of reading and researching.
Moreover, since they come in image formats, people are more inclined to share infographics and they have a lot of potential to go viral.
However, the convenience and popularity of infographics are also their greatest weaknesses. Since infographics are extremely popular and so easy to share, a lot of marketers are now using them solely for promotional and link building purposes. As a result, most infographics nowadays are low on quality when it comes to design and substance.
What’s more, because of their low caliber, Google might actually lower their SEO value. In a recent interview, Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google, told Eric Enge that he “would not be surprised” if the search giant starts to discount “infographic-type links to a degree.”
Cutts called out the poor fact-checking of some infographics and said that they tend to mislead people. He added:
The other thing that happens is that people don’t always realize what they are linking to when they reprint these infographics. Often the link goes to a completely unrelated site, and one that they don’t mean to endorse. Conceptually, what happens is they really buy into publishing the infographic, and agree to include the link, but they don’t actually care about what it links to. From our perspective this is not what a link is meant to be.
The Other Downsides of Infographics
Misleading – What stops marketers from pulling random statistics out of thin air? Nothing much. Since those that create infographics for promotional and linking purposes are only looking out for their own interests, they don’t care too much if the information in their infographics is false or outdated, as long as they get links out of them.
As what former TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld mentioned in his blog, these days, infographics “are driven more by marketing budgets than editorial discretion. Most of them are created by companies and distributed for ‘free’ to blogs and media outlets as a form of PR and viral marketing. The publishers eat them up because it is free content that would otherwise be expensive to produce.”
Moreover, like what Cutts said, stats on low quality infographics are poorly-researched, which can give people information that’s misleading or downright wrong. Some infographics don’t even have their sources mentioned.
That’s why users should always take infographic data with a grain of salt. Don’t believe everything you read. If the infographic has its sources listed, check if they are credible.
Bad designs – Aside from being poorly-researched, a lot of infographics circling the blogosphere are also poorly-designed. From bad color combinations to clichéd clipart, most infographics look cluttered and complicate information even more, which is the complete of opposite of what they’re supposed to do.
Not user-friendly – Some people seem to think that when it comes to infographics, bigger is always better. However, this creates a burden for users who have to zoom in and out of the images just to see the data.
Additionally, they’re virtually impossible to read if the website does not display the high-resolution version of the image, which again defeats the purpose of easily relaying data.
Not mobile-friendly – We live a word that’s increasingly being more mobile and unfortunately, infographics don’t fit—literally. Since most of them are so big, users viewing them on their mobile phones struggle to get the data. Moreover, their colossal size means a longer download time for users who are relying on their carriers’ Internet connection.
How to Create Good Infographics
Don’t worry, though. All is not lost for Internet infographics. As Schonfeld wrote in the above-mentioned blog post, “we can do better”. While there are tons of bad infographics out there, there are still others that actually convey reliable information. If you’re creating infographics, strive to be like some of the better ones by following these tips:
Only use data from credible sources – An infographic is only as good as the information it presents. In order to present credible statistics, you have to get data from trustworthy sources. Make sure that you find information from authoritative news sources, or better yet, look at research papers from educational, governmental, and non-profit organizations. These groups usually have access to great resources and the data they produce are often more reliable compared to those driven by commercial reasons.
Only use recent data – Make sure that your infographics are able to keep up with the times. Obviously, if your statistics are from the 90’s you shouldn’t use them. Recent is always better when it comes to stats, so always use the newest data that you can get your hands on.
Do your own research – Can’t find the data you need from external sources? Why not do your own research instead? Do a survey or come up with your own research. Not only will this ensure that your information is completely unique, but publishers are more likely to post your infographic if the data is original, as opposed to simply being pulled from other sources.
Make sure the content is relevant – According to Cutts, one of the main issues that he has with infographics is that some of them link to completely unrelated websites. This leads to a lot of misconceptions and could result to Google discounting the value of the links.
When creating infographics, make sure that they’re relevant to your company. For example, if you’re in the music business, don’t create an infographic about social media simply because the topic is popular. Instead, do your research and produce infographics about your industry. This will not only add more value to the graphic, but doing so could potentially give your more link love from Google.
Create to inform, not to advertise – Last, but not least, when you’re creating infographics, put the facts first. Their purpose is to inform and make data easier to digest. Links and promotions should only be bonuses the come from creating infographics, and should not be their primary focus.
Image credit: Think Brilliant