Those long infographics: the good, the bad, and the pretty

Everyone has seen the very trendy “infographics”* in blog posts, where a variety of facts and data are presented in a visual format. They are often very long vertically, requiring the viewer to scroll in order to see it all.

Some questions to ask about this sort of graphic, if you are considering creating one:

Is its information density suitable to the audience?

  • Studies show that people are more engaged by visuals than text, and more likely to retain information if it is presented in less intimidating, bite-size pieces.
  • On the other hand, I’m acquainted with geeks and scientists who are quite scathingly negative about all the empty space and “prettification” in the most decorative infographics.

Does the sequence of the units help tell a coherent story? Or would a different ordering build better for a viewer who doesn’t already know the content?

Does each unit, examined alone, give complete information?

  • Do the axes of the chart need labels?
  • Are the pictorial elements and icons self-explanatory (or defined earlier)?

Do the visuals call so much attention to themselves that they overwhelm the information?

Is scrolling the best user experience for people who want to understand the information?

* I put air quotes around “infographic” because it’s beginning to be associated only with the long format with multiple factoids. In fact, the term has a long history with a much broader definition.

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