How Useful Is Your Infographic?

You often hear people describe the goal of data visualisation as communicating something quickly and easily.  And I agree, in part.  But I’ve come to view this description as incomplete.

More accurately…

The goal of data visualisation is to communicate something more quickly and more easily than you would otherwise be able to.

A visualisation does not necessarily need to be quick and easy to understand.  However, the fact that one isn’t quick and easy to understand should be due to the nature of the concept being communicated, and not a failure of design.  Einstein’s quote seems quite appropriate here:

Things should be made “as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

photo of albert einstein

Suppose you’re trying to explain something to someone and they aren’t quite getting it…

You know you have a good piece of data visualisation, if you can imagine pulling it out to support the point you’re making.

Another question to ask yourself might be:

Can you imagine printing out your infographic and referring to it from time to time?

I saw this happen the other day.  I noticed the following on my colleague’s desk:

picture of the social media landscape infographic printed out

This was an infographic I had seen in previously, and I too had thought it to be a useful resource.  But my colleague had felt sufficiently compelled to go one step further, and actually print it off.  The original looks like this:

the original social media landscape infographic from cmo

You can find the original over at CMO, and you can download a copy too.

Note that the above infographic isn’t necessarily quick and easy to understand, but that’s not surprising.  It’s explaining the role that 10 different social media sites can play in branding, SEO, customer engagement and traffic generation.  I challenge anyone to make that quick and easy to understand!

But this infographic definitely does make it quicker and easier, and it has been created as a very useful reference.  Brilliant.

Ultimately, I’m suggesting that if you can imagine pulling out an infographic to help support the point you’re making, or if you could see yourself (or someone else) pinning it to the wall and using it as a reference – these 2 scenarios (imagined or real) present…

2 Quick Ways To Test If Your Infographic Is Actually Useful

Utility (or usefulness) is not the only test of an infographic, however, and there are other hooks you might wish to employ.  (I will be exploring alternative hooks in future posts).

One final note – if you ever happen to come across infographics you do find useful, please get in touch and let me know.  I love to hear people’s stories and experiences with infographics and data visualisation.