Infographics are dominating the web, or so it seems. They fascinate and entertain us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, making us laugh, think and understand information in dynamic new ways. They are also a powerful means to market products or services through lively visuals, colorful graphs and practical charts. Every single infographic has the potential to reach some 15 million people, especially when linked to the world’s most powerful social networking sites, and marketing professionals are fully aware that when it comes to emotionally connecting and engaging clients, visuals are the way to go.
The Human Brain: Wired for Visual Stimulation
Is there any way to explain why a traditional post on Twitter containing text information obtains approximately 60 Tweets, while the same data displayed with infographics receives close to 600 Tweets? Research has proven that the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. We decode language in a linear (and therefore slower) manner, yet we are able to process multiple images simultaneously. There are powerful physiological reasons why we prefer visuals: the human retina comprises over 150 million cells. The neurons we use for vision make up 30 per cent of our grey matter; neurons for touch comprise only 8 per cent and neurons for hearing, a mere 3 per cent.
Author, Patricia Wolfe, explains in her book, Brain Matters, that the brain discards 99 per cent of all sensory information almost immediately, in an effort to stay nimble and operate at breakneck speed. The one per cent of information that the brain does retain, is unique or new. These qualities are far more prevalent in visual, rather than textual, communication.
Slick Infographic Tools
* Visual.ly: This is an ideal place to start if you are new to the world of design. The platform was recently re-launched and now allows you to create infographics in a matter of minutes, share your work, check out items that may be of interest and view others’ favorites. Choose from a wide variety of templates boasting different design features. Just select the ‘story’ that most appeals and add your data; your can download your design in PDF format or share it on social networking sites.
* Infogr.am: The creators of Infogr.am describe it as “the world’s simplest infographics generating application online”. This handy tool works similarly to Visual.ly, allowing you to select from a nice selection of templates and enabling you to add your own charts, videos and maps. Once your work is completed, share it in a blog or through your social network.
* Wordle: Is a client interested in discovering the most popular words on his website? If so, surprise him with a Wordle cloud, which displays frequently used words prominently and you can play around with colors, fonts and styles.
* Piktochart: Piktochart bridges the gap between cool imagery and SEO opportunities, inviting users to create interactive infographics with search-friendly features such as hyperlinks and viewable tabs that allow for the addition of new layers of content. Your work will be hosted on the cloud and can be shared directly on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.
* What About Me?: This tool allows you learn more about the way you use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It reveals the most popular themes you’ve covered in your posts, your most popular status report and how you shared information (did you ‘make it’, ‘find it’ or just ‘like it’?). It also lists down when you connect, who you connect with and the latest things you’ve been talking about.
* Prezi: Spelling the Demise of PowerPoint?
Prezi is currently the ‘it’ choice for those seeking to create vivid, dynamic presentations using infographics. It has been hailed as the more visually enticing successor to PowerPoint. Prezi is a web-based tool using a map layout and a ‘zooming’ feature to show contextual relationships or focus on a particular area of your map. It differs from PowerPoint in the following manner:
|Non-liner navigation||Linear navigation|
|Map layout||Slide-stack layout|
|Limited printing options||Multiple printing options|
Prezi is very user-friendly, allowing you to insert data in your information ‘map’ by double clicking over the exact space you want the information to appear in. It also allows you to zoom in on a specific part of your map, and add images and YouTube videos. Some of its most useful features include Frames (which allow you to group related items together) and Path (which enables you to create a storyline). Prezi can be shared by email or on Facebook or Twitter, and can also be embedded in a website or blog. All Prezis are public. If you want to make a private Prezi, you will need to open an upgraded or ‘education’ account.
Would we recommend Prezi over PowerPoint? When Prezi first burst onto the scene, the answer would undoubtedly have been ‘yes’, but PowerPoint recently stepped up its game, offering a host of advanced features such as dynamic 3D slide transitions, more realistic animation effects, and options to embed and edit video from within the programme itself. Users can add fades, bookmark scenes and trim videos for a professional multimedia presentation.
A number of considerations may affect your choice between Prezi and PowerPoint: for instance, in Prezi, pictures can’t be copied and pasted – they have to be uploaded; PowerPoint comes at a cost, while Prezi is free, albeit for a limited time period; PowerPoint has an auto-correct function; Prezi does not; PowerPoint allows you to line up text and images exactly, which makes for a very neat, professional-looking presentation. Ultimately, both tools can be used for both visual and text-based presentations, with excellent results.
Going Viral: How to Get the Most Mileage from Your Infographics
Once you have selected the tool that most suits your needs, the next step is to ensure that your content is likely to spread to the widest audience possible. If you’re really ambitious and want your design to go viral, you should first take note of the countries where infographics are most popular: the top 6 countries: the Philippines, South Africa, New Zealand, the Netherlands, India and the U.S.A. The hottest topic trends, according to Visual.ly, are (in descending order): Business, Technology, Social Media, Economy, Education, Health, Lifestyle, Entertainment and Politics. Other popular themes are Animals, ‘How To’-style infographics, Humor, Science, Sports and Travel. Consider concentrating one of these topics or at least incorporating them strongly into your infographic. When it comes to design, don’t go overboard by using too much text or too many videos and sound bites; simple white backgrounds and a select number of carefully selected images and perhaps one or two short videos, make for the coolest infographics.